In the previous series about effective business communication, we have already discussed in depth about the most common mistakes in communication. Now that we’ve covered those mistakes, it’s time to know 6 communication tips for your success.
Tip#1: How to ask for a favor
Asking someone for a favor will often go against the grain for many business leaders. Entrepreneurs are usually type-A personalities who are real go-getters and like to take the lead assertively, if not aggressively, in all areas of business. They may think it is a sign of weakness or failure to ask for a favor.
However, nobody really gets anywhere in business without getting help, at least from time to time. Most businesses need staff, partners, customers and/or vendors. The goal is to communicate effective with them and get along well for the sake of the business. If you have been in business for any length of time, you have probably been asked to do a favor for someone else.
If you’ve done the favor, there is nothing wrong with asking for one in return, provided it is reasonable and won’t represent a huge sacrifice for the other person. A favor of equal or lesser value than the favor you did them should not be a cause for concern.
If the favor is going to be a bigger one, be sure you are clear about why you need the favor and if necessary, how you would be prepared to pay them back. Most of the time they will not take you up on that part of the offer, but you should be sincere about it and prepared to follow through if they do.
It Feels Good to Do Favors
You may not like asking, but think about how good you feel when you do a favor for someone – especially if you have no real hope or even desire to be paid back. This demonstrates what is known as an abundant mindset. It encourages generosity, and “paying it forward”.
The Importance of Supportive Relationships
In business, as in our personal lives, it is important to have supportive relationships. Be choosy. Surround yourself and your business with people you can be sure have your back no matter what. If you have helped a person but discover that the person is not willing to reciprocate when the time comes, that person or business can go down to the bottom of your list of partners trustworthy enough to have dealings with.
Now that you know more about asking for favors from others, you will hopefully feel a bit less nervous or hesitant to do this when required, for the sake of your business.
Tip#2: How to convey bad news in business
No one ever likes to give bad news to others, but sometimes in business it is unavoidable. If you’re a manager or currently holding a C-level post, conveying bad news is unfortunately going to be all part of the job and not something you can duck responsibility for.
That being the case, it is important to practice this skill in such a way that any bad news will not have an excessively negative impact on your staff, colleagues, or business partners and vendors.
For example, when facing economic uncertainty due to Covid-19 pandemic, many layoffs has been occurring, even on the date of this posting. It was distressing for all concerned, but some companies handled it better than others. The principle was the same: in order for the company to stay in business, some cuts would have to be made. This would create a leaner, stronger enterprise that stood every chance of maintaining, or even improving, its current level of success – despite tough times.
It isn’t always easy to convey this, but it is essential both for those who are getting laid off and those who are staying. The people with the pink slips can’t be made to feel as though they are being pushed out because they are a failure, or it is something personal. In fact, that is dangerous territory because it could involve a lawsuit if something is expressed unskillfully during the course of breaking the bad news.
For those who are kept on, things can seem gloomy for different reasons. No one likes change. They might be dreading what the new company will be like. They could even fear it is the beginning of the end, and that what is really being conveyed is that the company is failing and going under completely. They will also be sorry to see friends and colleagues leave. In addition, they might be worried or upset about how their duties will be impacted. With so many people leaving, someone will have to take over the jobs they were doing.
For all these reasons, it is important to never spring bad news on your staff, colleagues or vendors. Give them time, if you can, to get used to the idea of changes coming soon. A whole team meeting can lay the framework for discussion, questions and planning for next steps.
This also ensures that everyone is on the same page, so that they are hearing the news directly from you and not getting it through gossip or whispering.
If you have trouble delivering bad news, consider practicing in front of a mirror, or with a loved one, until it becomes more comfortable and sincere sounding.
Tip#3: How to get the most out of meetings
Meetings take place for all sorts of different reasons, so the first way to get the most out of any meeting is to decide what the goal of the meeting will be. Some business leaders like to have a regular weekly meeting in order to keep in touch with people and inform them of any major changes or things coming down the pipeline.
On the one hand, these meetings might seem like a waste of time because they are short and perhaps not much happens. On the other hand, they can be effective because staff can check in with each other regularly and this creates a more open atmosphere of communication. As long as you are not meeting just for the sake of a meeting, staff should not view these gatherings as a waste of time.
Set a Schedule and Agenda
Whenever you decide to host any sort of meeting, start with scheduling to determine if everyone will be available, or block off regular staff meeting times once a week or month. Once you’ve got a consensus on everyone coming, set an agenda. Email it to everyone, and ask if anyone has any items to add. Send the final agenda via email prior to the meeting. If any data is confidential, then print out copies and hand them out to attendees. Make sure you have enough to go around.
An agenda ensures everyone is on the same page and you don’t miss raising any important details you need to communicate. If it is a more important meeting about a particular topic, such as launching a new project, getting a progress report on a new initiative, or your latest sales figures, the agenda might be to review and discuss them. In this case, be sure to have copies of the most important materials organized prior to the meeting.
If you can email copies of the supporting material prior to the meeting, this will help people prepare for the meeting. If there is anything confidential you wouldn’t wish to share in an email, create a PowerPoint deck to show people and create a summary slide that reviews in broad strokes what will be discussed.
For important meetings, request that someone take minutes during the meeting. Minutes are a useful review of what has been discussed and can be very helpful if any important stakeholders were unable to attend the meeting, or had to leave early.
Running better meetings can help you run a better company with clearer communications.
Tip#4: How to get the most out of a conference
You might participate in a conference from time to time. You might even decide to host one. Some people love business conferences; other people hate them. However, a business conference is a great place to connect with peers in your niche or industry and discover best practices, the latest trends, hottest new products, and more.
The Value of Conferences
Conferences can be very exciting for your business, for a number of reasons. The first is that many conferences offer educational seminars for attendees so they can learn from the guest speakers, who are usually experts in their field.
You can interact with them before and after their sessions. You can learn valuable nuggets of information during their presentation and get the edge over business leaders who haven’t attended. You can also meet like-minded professionals before and after the sessions, which will be a great opportunity for networking.
With a lot of like-minded professionals all in the same conference venue, it is possible to connect with a number of people and businesses you might be eager to meet, and forge partnerships if they are a good fit with your company. You can also check in with existing partners and vendors you don’t often see in person. You can organize a calendar of meetings, get together over coffee, or have lunch or dinner together.
A conference booth is a significant commitment in terms of money and staffing, but it can boost the visibility of your business like never before. Many people attend conferences just to see what is new and who the big players are in relation to the topic of the conference.
A booth will usually put you in the league of the big players. Anyone attending the conference who is exploring all it has to offer can come to connect with you and your staff. In turn, you can walk the floor and meet up with many like-minded people who will be a valuable source of information and get your creative juices flowing in many cases.
The larger companies in your industry will have bigger booths, and often offer special presentations you can attend so you can learn even more about your competition, or the latest technology that could affect your business.
If you love attending conferences, you might consider arranging one for the same reason – to connect with thought leaders in your niche or industry. It can be a big undertaking, of course, but the results can put you front and center in your industry and position you as someone worth paying attention to.
If you aren’t making the most out of conferences, it might be time to reconsider your outlook on attending them, so you can use them as the golden opportunity for communication and business growth that they can be.
Tip#5: How to get the most out of an interviewee
As a business leader, interviewing people will be an important part of your duties. However, interviewing candidates is a lot like detective work. You need to dig deep in order to discover whether or not that person is really the right fit for the job you are offering. And remember, you need to be a good fit for them as well.
Write a clear job description
Your first step is to write a clear job description. If it is a new post, think about all of the essential tasks in your business and any areas that need more help. Also, think about any new initiatives you might want to launch, but just don’t have the right trained personnel.
If the post is to fill an existing vacancy because someone is leaving, hopefully on good terms, ask them to write the job description to make sure nothing vital gets left out.
Understand what a typical day looks like
Once you have the description, review it to make sure you understand what a typical day looks like in that job. In this way, you will be able to determine if the interviewee will be able to manage, and will be genuinely interested in the work.
Review the resumes carefully
A lot of resumes will be padded and inflated. Choose the ones that are the most honest. You can use Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the candidates to help with the weeding out process.
Prepare the questions carefully
Prepare a list of questions that you will expect every candidate to answer, so you can compare them side by side despite their different backgrounds.
Think beyond just skills
Your shortlist of candidates should all have the skills to do the job, so that should not be a real issue at the interview. Rather, you should be looking for whether or not you will be a good fit for each other. You want everyone to be happy, so taking a 360-degree view of the job, who they will have to work with, and who they are as a person will be important.
Give them a test
If the job requires any sort of technical skills, give them a test assignment to complete and see how they handle it. If this isn’t practical, give them a couple of hypothetical situations. In this way, the candidate can show off their thinking and reasoning skills, and these sorts of assignments can also help eliminate the ones with the inflated resumes.
Listen, don’t talk
This will give you a chance to weed out any bad fits, and let the best candidates shine.
Use these simple strategies to get the most out of each person you interview and see what a difference it makes to your hiring.
Tip#6: How to to succeed in a job interview for a leadership role
We have just discussed how to help candidates shine in an interview so you can pick the best person for your job vacancy. Now, let us look at things from the opposite side of the desk: how to succeed in a job interview for a leadership role.
Do Your Research
So you want to be a C-level executive? Research the company and post as much as possible. Look on Glassdoor. Connect with anyone you might know in the company, or those who have worked there in the past. Decide if it is the kind of place you would like to work. Then apply.
Focus on Your Past Successes
If you are going for a C-level post, chances are you have been working for quite some time. Rework your resume and cover letter to highlight the past experience which is most relevant to the position you are applying for.
Don’t throw in the kitchen sink. However, don’t be too narrow either. Add a hint here and there about how versatile you can be. Read the job description carefully, highlighting the key words, and use those words in both the resume and letter.
Prepare Sample Questions
Try to anticipate what questions you may be asked. Practice quality responses to them. You should be prepared to answer the typical questions about leadership. These will include:
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How would you describe your management style?
- Why should we hire you?
- What salary are you looking for?
- Describe a project that succeeded/failed. What happened, and why?
If you can answer any of these smoothly, without squirming or acting nervous, you will be well ahead of the game compared to most candidates. Plus, for C-level posts, the hiring manager will be looking for a good communicator who can perform well under pressure, never letting anyone see them sweat. They are also looking for someone who can communicate their vision to staff, outside clients and more. Give brief examples that are to the point, and don’t babble just to fill the silence.
Create a Cheat Sheet
Memorize the most important dates and facts on your resume. Write down the most important ones on a small piece of paper you can hold in your hand. Don’t whip it out in the middle of the interview, though. Instead, use it as a “safety blanket” so you will feel less nervous.
Send a thank you letter or email. Good manners cost nothing. This will also set you apart from the average candidate. Use this tips and you should soon get the executive post you’re aiming for.
We’ve reached the end of the series on more effective business communication. We hope you’ve learned a lot and will apply everything you’ve learned so that you can become a more effective communicator, and an even better leader as a result.