Communication is the currency of success. No one succeeds alone; every single one of us needs to communicate in order to get things done, achieve goals, and succeed.
Good communication skills are therefore critical to organizational effectiveness and personal success. Yet not enough organizations embrace excellence in communication as a value or a performance imperative.
This is my personal crusade. Excellence in communication doesn’t just happen, it needs to be cultivated and nurtured by organizations and the people who lead them.
While the direct ROI of excellence in communication may not be easily measurable, it would be hard to argue that strong communication skills don’t yield better results in selling, negotiating, client and customer service, employee relations, you name it.
Whether anecdotally or through research, I have become almost painfully aware that there are three elements that make a pretty compelling case for looking more closely at how communication impacts your organization:
1. Performance Issue. Over the past couple of years, I have heard from clients that communication skills consistently emerge as the #1 area of need in performance reviews. In fact, it’s become pretty standard for me, that whenever I meet an HR person, I now ask what tops their list of performance needs, and communications skills are always at or near the top.
2. Career Maker/Breaker. I’ve also observed that communication skills are seen as something that can make or break careers – even by organizations that don’t explicitly embrace good communication skills as a performance imperative.
Anecdotally, I’ve often been hired to coach high-level executives who are either long-winded, short-tempered or not inspiring enough. These are people in the C-Suite who might be flailing a little bit or need a boost; they may be technically competent but communication-challenged. Or I’ve worked with executives who have C-Suite potential but their ability to communicate clearly and influence with confidence is just not there yet.
Straight out of recent headlines, a University President just lost her job in large part due to her poor communication skills. Ironically, however, she is keeping her faculty post in – wait for it – the School of Communication Studies. Nonetheless, she was cited in her termination letter for failures to listen and to communicate well, whether written or oral.
There’s also research that shows how recruiters and employers view and value communication skills, which impacts people’s careers:
According to a 2014 survey of 565 global employers by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which administers the business school entrance test, corporate recruiters ranked communication skills ahead of teamwork, technical knowledge and leadership when assessing MBA graduates for mid-level jobs. They rated communication skills ahead of managerial ability by a two-to-one margin.
Also in 2014, in an online survey of 845 North American business executives, respondents identified leadership and effective communication as the two most important management competencies – as well as the two most in need of improvement!
3. Complaint. Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to care about communications lies in one of the biggest complaints in the business world – and one of the biggest impacts on organizational effectiveness – which is long, boring, tedious meetings and presentations.
It is estimated that there are 25 million meetings in the U.S. per day, 30 million PowerPoint presentations per day, and that more than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings. Yikes!
C-Suite executives are estimated to spend 85% of their time with other people – largely in meetings. Upper management spends 50% of their time in meetings. And middle management spends 35% of their time in meetings.
Why do I pick on meetings and presentations? Because they are the most common and most pure vehicles for business communication. They’re supposed to be productive, but our experiences tell us otherwise.
Communicating is not something people just do, like breathing. When performance and success are on the line, it needs to be thoughtful and deliberate. You exchange this valuable currency a lot, you communicate all the time, so embrace its importance and get it right. Your organization’s effectiveness and your success depend on it!