The Washington State University Carson College of Business is structured to teach students the vital information and skills necessary to succeed in today’s business environment. One of our offerings, the online Master of Business Administration program, was created to help ambitious students such as yourself reach the next stage in their careers. If you enroll in this program, you’ll study a variety of topics and skills that aim to help you become a strong business leader.
One such business skill you’ll need to master by graduation is the ability to properly communicate. This is one of the essential soft skills that many executives say are missing in new recruits. According to a survey from Payscale, communication was the third most commonly cited soft skill that recent graduates lacked. Of the 63,924 managers surveyed, 46% noted new employees lacked this crucial ability.
Proper communication helps businesses operate more efficiently and effectively. Below are five tips that can help you master this skill:
1. Draft communication (emails, memos) that are easy to read.
Writing for readability makes it easier for your message to be understood. A common misconception among business leaders is that creating lengthy, verbose emails conveys professionalism. In reality, it makes it harder for people to interpret what you are saying. To create easy-to-read emails, use these helpful tips:
1. Create a subject line that summarizes the contents of the email.
2. Create a new paragraph for each topic.
3. Use lists to make your points more clear and break up long messages.
Similarly, eliminate anything unnecessary. When writing emails or creating notes for a presentation, during your proofreading process strike out extraneous words. This shortens the length of your message, making it more likely to be read and/or remembered. For instance, instead of saying:
• “We dramatically exceeded quarterly expectations by accurately and consistently leveraging cross-market intel and applying these analyses to consumers in Australia, New Zealand and East Asia.”
Condense this statement to:
• “Thanks to our strong international market research, we grew an additional 5% this quarter.”
The second version is much easier to read and has more of an impact than the first.
Write emails clearly so your recipient fully understands you.
2. Review emails before sending.
The rules of grammar exist for a reason: To formalize our communication and help us better understand each other. While it is okay to play with these rules in a casual setting, you should adhere to them during business hours. Below are a few quick things to look for while proofreading:
• Spelling: Most email clients have a built-in spell checker, so proper spelling is expected.
• Excessive punctuation: Adding an extra question mark or exclamation point gives the preceding sentence a casual air. Always double check to make sure you didn’t hit a key twice.
• Coherence: It’s important to make certain your reader understands your email. Try not to use industry terms the reader may not be familiar with, even if they often pop up in your day to day communication.
If you struggle to nail down proper sentence structure and punctuation usage, grab a copy of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation or utilize an online tool like Grammarly. Use these as references when you’re not sure about the correct way to write something.
3. Be specific.
When talking with your coworkers, be exact in your expectations and include specific details such as deadlines and anticipated outcomes. Leave each correspondence – whether a meeting or the end of an email chain – with actionable, time-bound steps. For example, tell your manager you expect a report by end-of-day next Friday, or state that you’ll come to a decision about a new software investment by the 15th (or other date).
Being exact may seem tedious at times, but it goes a long way toward saving time. Stating things concretely minimizes the risk of miscommunication and avoids a trap many business leaders are familiar with: one where employees accidentally work on a different project instead of the project assigned.
4. Include all applicable employees.
In today’s offices, one person can be part of multiple teams, assist on multiple projects and even operate out of multiple offices. Additionally, the concept of working remotely is increasing in popularity. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 37% of people would change jobs if their new position granted them the opportunity to work wherever they wanted on a part-time basis at least.
This increased flexibility and role-sharing means it’s even more critical for all applicable employees to be on the “same page.” Therefore, you should make sure you’re conveying important information to everyone on a project, not just the people you think of first when drafting the message. As a business leader, you will often “include all applicable employees” by delegating message sharing through your direct reports. For example, you might inform your reporting managers of a critical deadline and have them relay this information to their teams. Regardless, as a leader, it will be your job to ensure the message spreads to all who need to hear it.
5. Prepare notes for introductory meetings.
When you reach the executive level, much of your time will likely be spent meeting new clients, vendors, and even employees. In these instances, it’s a good idea to review their background information beforehand. Doing so helps you prepare for the conversation and ensures everyone’s time is used efficiently. It also displays a personal touch – the person you’re interacting with will likely appreciate the efforts you’ve made.
Review your notes before meeting someone for the first time.
The Washington State University’s Carson College’s online MBA curriculum is designed to help you create strong business strategies, conduct data-driven analyses, execute effective leadership theories, and operate with an international understanding. To do so, you’ll also need to graduate with the ability to communicate well. These five aforementioned tips will allow you to get started.