Ok, so it is probably not realistic to only focus on one thing … be it as an employee, aspiring leader, or existing leader … given the breadth of responsibilities we all have. However, there is one thing that I have found that consistently has dramatic impacts on one’s career that makes it most worthy of significant focus. In my own experience, and that of virtually everyone I know, communication skills are one thing that we can all continuously improve throughout our lives and that are so incredibly important.

So you’re probably thinking to yourself …“well, of course, I already know how to communicate.” Trust me … while we all might know how to communicate, most of us haven’t mastered how to do it most effectively on a consistent basis. In fact, I am firmly of the belief that VERY few people truly know how to effectively communicate. When considering the communication options we face in any situation, it comes down to four very simply alternatives:

  • Saying the wrong thing
  • Saying nothing when saying something is the best course of action
  • Saying something when silence is the best course of action
  • Saying the right thing

As sad as it might sound, more often than not, most of us wind up taking one of the first three alternatives. After all, how many times has the following happened to you:

A couple of hours after a being in a meeting or sending an e-mail you think to yourself, “I should have mentioned x, y or z,” or, “I should have worded that e-mail this way instead of the way that I did”?

In many cases, it’s simply a matter of thinking before we blurt out our initial thoughts or feelings. However, it’s difficult to have the discipline during a conversation to say that you need time to think before responding. For some unknown social reason we all feel pressure to have all the answers, portray that we are quick thinking, or simply get uncomfortable in an extended silence such that we fill it by speaking before thinking.

We all must learn that it is better to get “it” right than to get “it” fast. Taking the necessary time to gather one’s thoughts and responses yields great returns. If there is a suggestion to be made here, it is to become comfortable with the silence that exists while you collect your thoughts. Better to be regarded as “deliberate” and “thoughtful” than “rash” and “impetuous.”

Nina Nets It Out: While I am not a fan of the notion of complacency in general, I am REALLY not a fan of it when it comes to one’s ability to communicate. I continuously strive to improve my ability to communicate more effectively and those that I know who have been in business for many years, consistently say that communication is the one thing they wish that they themselves and those around them were better at.