Communication is a big part of Leighton’s success.  Every single one of us talks regularly, whether that’s to a colleague or a client, and having that clear stream of communication ensures everyone is fully aware of what’s happening throughout the business.

But while on an Italian language learning journey recently, it got me thinking that it’s not just talking in different languages that can cause problems through miscommunication.

Within business and everyday life, we all have interactions with others, and whether it be in person, online or over the phone, it’s rare these days that we go through a day without communicating with at least a handful of other people through these various forms.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post on Agile project management, communication is vital to success – but we have to make sure it’s productive and effective communication that we’re using.  It’s all very well talking and discussing, but what’s not often fully understood is that you can do so without anything useful or beneficial ever being said.

So, how do you ensure that your message is communicated effectively?

On a high level, it’s simple – know who you are communicating with!

How can you clearly get a message across to your team if you don’t know who they are?  And I don’t just mean their name and technical skills; I mean knowing who they are as a person.

A bulleted list showing considerations for interpersonal relationshipsLooking at the people you interact and work with on a daily basis, every single one of them is unique.  However, you are all drawn together with common elements, and you should use these common elements as a basis for your communication.

For example, you could use them to set clear goals to achieve defined objec
tives and develop a clear plan for achieving these goals.  What’s more, when working in teams it is likely you will share common skills, experience or knowledge, all of which can be drawn upon to communicate effectively, relate to others and understand what is being said.

On the topic of teams, one of the most important aspects of ensuring you get your message across clearly is to encourage intercommunication through a supportive environment – peer support and open discussion is huge at Leighton and will always help reduce any risk of miscommunication.

And don’t forget that just because you’re a team, it doesn’t mean you all have the same understanding of things like phrases and terminology.  For example, if you have a team made up of developers, designers and project managers, you need to be confident the language used is not too technical (or at least not used without any further elaboration where necessary) so that no one is excluded.

But how do you overcome communication barriers?

The main point I would say is when taking the time to understand your team’s skills, understand everyone’s differences, too.  Be open and interested in getting to know each other, as it will without doubt help – and you never know, you might end up finding you have a lot more in common than you originally thought.

Two business people communicating using a tin can telephoneWhat’s also vital to keep in mind is that patience really is a virtue.  This one can be quite hard, especially if you are under pressure and working to tight deadlines, and it’s very easy to become frustrated quickly with others.  It is funny – I’ve found during my Italian learning journey, people tend to have more patience and consideration when helping those of another language trying to get messages across than we do with those in our native language!

Linking in to this point is the need to keep communication channels open at all times, whilst being responsive and welcoming both questions and feedback.  Don’t be offended by such aspects, but embrace them.

The same goes if you aren’t sure of a message – just ask!  It’s much better to do this upfront than spending time on something and later finding out it’s incorrect.   One thing so many forget is that communication is open to interpretation, which – especially when working within teams – means it’s important that everyone is on the same page.  Everyone is different, so don’t just assume a message is universally understood as you intended it to be.

Further considerations

When it comes to communicating effectively, there are numerous points that can be discussed, some of which I’ve touched on here and others I haven’t, largely because they could be talked about so much they’re worth of their own post!

Take body language as an example.  With its importance often underestimated, it plays a huge role, with the majority of communication between people being non-verbal, meaning you need to make sure you aren’t giving out the wrong signals.

And remember, communication is not just about what is being said.  The main – and perhaps most important – part of communication is listening.  If you listen, you’ll be able to communicate effectively – and as I’ve seen first hand at Leighton, effective communication benefits everyone, makes sure teams are productive and ultimately, ensures clients get exactly what they need.