After surveying hundreds of executives, we found that everyone we surveyed felt that it was critical for an indispensable employee to be a strong communicator. Many of the problems that occur in an organization are the direct result of people failing to communicate. Faulty communication causes the most problems. It leads to confusion and can cause a good plan to fail. Effective communication by leadership was the key to winning organizational trust and confidence in three critical areas:

Helping employees understand the company’s overall business strategy.

Helping employees understand how they contribute to achieving key business objectives.

Sharing information with employees on both how the company is doing and how an employee’s own division is doing – relative to strategic business objectives.

Simply put, communication is the exchange and flow of information and ideas from one person to another. It involves a sender transmitting an idea to a receiver. Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit. Here’s an easy example: Think of talking on your cell phone. If you’re signal keeps going in and out, you can’t be sure how much the other person heard or understood. That’s certainly not the way you want to communicate an important message. You have no idea what you’ll end up with, but the likelihood is that you won’t be pleased.

The CFOs we surveyed took this a step further. Communicating is divided up into three parts: 1. Speaking 2. Writing and 3. the lost art of Listening. I don’t have to tell you that to be a great employee you must be able to get your point across using both written and verbal skills. But it’s the listening portion that tends to throw most people. Communicating effectively isn’t as easy as you may think. Did you know that people speak at 100 to 175 words per minute, but they can listen intelligently to 600 to 800 words per minute? What that means is that we’re basically using only a small portion of our brain to listen. The other part of the brain is wondering about the latest basketball scores or where you’ll go to dinner tonight. If you’re only listening with a part of your brain, then you’re not really listening at all. You must learn to listen with purpose. When you’re listening with purpose you’re trying to understand, gain information, get direction, show support, solve a problem, etc. This kind of listening with purpose requires the same or more energy than speaking. It means you are hearing the message, understanding the meaning and then verifying the meaning by offering feedback. Here are some traits of purposeful listeners:

*             Spend more time listening than talking.

*             Do not finish the sentences of others.

*             Do not answer questions with questions.

*             Never daydream or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others talk.

*             Let the other speakers talk. Do not dominate the conversation.

*             Plan responses after the others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking.

*             Provide feedback, but do not interrupt incessantly.

*             Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions. Walk others through by summarizing.

*             Keep conversations on what others say, NOT on what interests them.

*             Take brief notes. This forces you to concentrate on what is being said.