Are You Listening, or Just Waiting To Talk

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

Are you listening, or just waiting to talk?

Think about it for a couple of seconds….

It was eye opening for me when I realized the depth of that question and its applicability in my industry. Consulting and sales professionals are essentially hired to voice our views and share expertise, and, there is no doubt that we are all good at the talking bit. The trick, however, is to engage in effective two-way communication and really hear what is being said.

The role of an advisor is to listen first and then talk, or better still, facilitate conversation. Effective listening creates a culture of meaningful engagement, which is the best kind of communication for consultant-client relationships. 

When you have the opportunity to speak, is your message is coming across effectively?

The abundance of acronyms, abstract terms and meaningless expressions, have created conversations that just don’t make sense anymore. Further complicating matters are the many diverse mediums available and the diminished attention span of recipients, requiring a sender to communicate their message in 140 characters or less. Because people are so inundated with both online and offline messaging we have to cleverly deliver complex solutions in the most efficient means possible.

Once we recognize how obtuse business discussions have become, we can take measures to reduce their complexity and ambiguity. Focus on delivering clear, concise and respectful communications, to the applicable audience, within the appropriate forum.

Consider the following elements of communication in your next business or social engagement:

Concentrate on Active Listening 
No communication technique is more effective than making someone feel like they have been heard. Open dialogue promotes a cooperative environment which builds trust, engagement and mutual understanding. Through listening and observation, we pick up on non-verbal cues and do not miss underlying messages. This mutual understanding also is helpful when addressing tough issues and building the necessary support.

Ensure Information is Applicable and Unambiguous
The ability to interpret complex information and relay it to a diverse audience is a critical skill. Ambiguity is unsettling, so it is tempting to reach for a fast, or safe, solution. A good communicator holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. And when the information is delivered, it is provided in such a way that is meaningful and impactful to the intended audience.

Know when to hold Conversations instead of Meetings 
This all boils down to knowing your audience. In every day communication, it is as simple as asking yourself if you should send that email or pick up the phone. When you do have to discuss in person, focus on the outcome of the exchange. Meetings are results driven, addressing specific content. Conversations are information driven, not outcome driven, and work best for interviewing, information gathering and idea generating.

Understand the implications of Virtual Communication 
In an era of telecommuting, virtual meetings and social networking, it is generally relationships that suffer. We have all heard about the significance of body language and eye contact in interpersonal communication. However, words lay flat on a page without emotion. Your online voice (including your tone and attitude) matter and the rules of business etiquette still apply.

Don’t Forget the Feedback 
Who doesn’t want to know where they stand? In addition to providing a comfort level, feedback promotes an open team culture. Continuous monitoring and regular communication ensures your group is on the same page and allows you to shift course if you’re off track. And at the end of the assignment, celebrate successes that provide insight and debrief failures to extract lessons.

Everything in Moderation 
“Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes…to ensure normality throughout the medium.” Consider moderating, rather than teaching; it creates a level playing field by encouraging independent thinking, innovation and teamwork. The ability to assess group dynamics, so you can ask the right questions, understand risk and change tolerance and resolve conflicts, are essential consulting skills

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Communication is at the core of everything we do. It’s why I am writing this blog. And, why the topic is integral to Plan in Motion, Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.

The next installment…

I understand the importance of communication at every stage in your software selection and deployment project. That is why Plan in Motion, Inc. follows a methodology focused on stakeholder involvement. A successful outcome requires a thorough business evaluation and continuous monitoring throughout the process to ensure that the project is always on the right track. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review the various steps in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion