Tailor your communication

Tailor your communication

Tracie Marquardt

Quality Assurance Communication

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5 Ways to Keep the Peace on Vacation or at Work

I’ve just spent a month with family. What struck me during this trip home is how different we all are. How varied our beliefs or ‘truths’ are. And how differently we communicate with each other.

There is the peacemaker, the influencer, the negative nelly, the researcher, and the know-it-all. It makes for interesting and stimulating dinner conversations, sometimes to the extreme. At times, the role we take on varies depending on how we feel or whose company we are in.

It’s how we deal with these differences in communication styles and opinions that I find intriguing, because you could compare our family dinner conversations to communicating in a business setting: Five people, different personalities, ages, life experiences, communication styles, needs and goals.

Breaking it down, here are some of the techniques we use in my family to manage our differences and conflicts, consciously or unconsciously:

1. Ask questions.

Sometimes we make assumptions about how someone will react to our opinion or desires, so we don’t ask for their help or opinion. We leap too far into a fantasy conversation and create an end-result that might never have been if we had actually had the conversation.

  • For more effective communication, and 100% better results, ask questions to get more information, clarify points or positions, and get agreement (or not!). We might end up where we thought we would, but we also have a chance of a very different outcome.

2. Listen with an open mind AND an open heart.

It’s so easy to listen superficially because we are texting someone not present or reading an article, newspaper or other document. This is a lose-lose proposition.

  • When we listen, and I mean REALLY listen, keep an open mind, and connect with empathy, we can truly understand what is being said and WHY. Understanding the motivation behind someone’s opinion can often lead us to a better understanding, a more appropriate insight, and a way to add value to the other person.

3. Be patient.

Occasionally when we are speaking with someone, they haven’t even stopped explaining the situation and we know what they should do. Or our speaking partner is taking forever to get to the point and we are mentally tapping our foot on the floor frustrated that the conversation isn’t going more quickly.

  • This is where we turn on the internal control of patience. Doing this allows others to finish what they are saying without feeling rushed. No annoyed facial expressions or verbal cues to signal the other person to ‘move it along’. It’s a sign of respect.

4. Be kind.

Does an unkind thought or word come to mind sometimes when you are speaking to someone? Do you want to tell the truth when the truth could hurt or cause significant damage to your relationship?

  • Let the unkind words go, and if you have to say something, choose your words carefully. Kindness is a currency with value than cannot always be measured in dollars and cents.

5. Change the subject

You’re not getting the response or result you want. Or you can see that the other person is simply not going to change their mind, or worse, calm down. It can make for an uncomfortable situation.

  • Once in a while, it ‘pays’ to change the subject, agree to disagree, or even walk away. Not all conflicts can be resolved in the moment, whether it’s family or business. So take a step back, rethink your position, and decide on an appropriate course of action. Sometimes you have to pick your battle, and permanently damaging the relationship may not be worth it.

I’ve had a wonderful, refreshing visit with my family. It has enriched me and most definitely challenged me on many levels. I’ll take what I’ve learned this trip back into my work, helping international professionals communicate their key messages more clearly, concisely and persuasively. These same strategies and techniques contribute to communication success in business and with your families, too.

All the best,

Tracie

Quality Assurance Communication

Why your audience is critical to your success

No matter which workshop I’m teaching, we always talk about ‘the audience’ of your communication. Because the audience is relevant, whether you’re delivering a presentation, crafting a report, giving an update in a meeting, or writing an email.

In fact, if you’re communicating anything – to anyone – you have an audience, which is fantastic: It’s an opportunity for you to share, connect and add value to others.

And when you do that, you can create positive change and growth: for your audience, for you, for your company, for the world.

Take advantage of the opportunity

Your audience wants something from you. They want you to give them wisdom, insight, facts and figures, results of research, a recommendation, details on the new process, etc. And they want you not to waste their time, because they are all busy.

In business, your audience might be a set of stakeholders that you communicate with regularly. Do you know exactly who they are and what they need from you?

A real-life stakeholder conundrum

In a recent presentation I gave to a group of audit executives at the Audit Challenge in Frankfurt, we talked about audit report stakeholders, and how knowing their needs drives audit’s success in an organization.

Case in point: There were 12 participants in one my audit report writing workshops earlier in the year. I asked two questions at the beginning of the first day of the workshop:

  1. Who are your stakeholders?
  2. What do they need from your audit reports?

I got eight different opinions, not just on stakeholder needs, but on who those main stakeholders were. (Nope, not kidding!)

Why were there so many different opinions, especially since all of the participants worked for the same company?

Blame it on poor communication

I believe it was a communication issue, or to be more precise, a ‘lack of communication’ issue.

This team couldn’t agree on who their main stakeholders were because they had never discussed it before. They had assumed it was clear within the team, but that wasn’t the reality.

Not having agreement on who their main stakeholders were created the follow-on challenge of trying to identify the most critical information to include in the audit reports.

As a result, this team’s reports were not as effective as audit management wanted. Their department was not adding the desired value to the organization. And that can spell disaster for long-term trust, confidence and growth.

The lesson learned

This team learned that they needed to regroup and ask some questions, both internally within their department and externally within the company.

  • Who are the potential stakeholders of their reports?
  • Of those, who are the main stakeholders?

Then they put themselves in the shoes of those main stakeholders and asked:

  • What would I need from the audit reports to do my job better?

The department then took a very important step:

  • They asked these stakeholders what they wanted from the audit reports.

Finally, the department compared this information to their own ideas, and made minor modifications to the audit report template and guidance to ensure their stakeholder needs were being met – and ideally, exceeded.

Applying these lessons to your communication

You may not be an auditor, but there may be takeaways for you, too, in this tale.

Every time you communicate with an audience, learn who they are and what they need and want from you. Then make sure you give it to them.

You may want to give them more, but don’t give more without giving what’s truly needed. And don’t give them so much that they can’t find what they need because of excess information.

And remember: Your stakeholders’ needs can change over time. So if you have an audience you communicate with regularly, make sure to build in a mechanism to find out if their needs and wants have changed. The information you provide will stay relevant, and so will you!

Wishing you every success in your communication!

All the best,

Tracie Marquardt

Quality Assurance Communication

7 Ways to Get Better Results from Small Talk and Networking

Love it or hate it, networking is a valuable way to move yourself and your business forward.

And the more you network, the more you will network. I’m a believer, two years after starting my own business and putting myself and what I am passionate about out into the world every day.

What I’ve learned is that one connection leads to another. These connections can lead to helping someone else achieve their goals, aligning myself with a new colleague to create inspired collaboration, meeting my perfect customer, and signing contracts that benefit both my new clients and me.

Some results of networking are achieved almost immediately. Others can take quite some time to realize. Either way, it’s all worth it. And that’s why we need to keep refining our small talk and networking skills.  With that in mind, here are 7 ways to get better results from networking events:

1. Understand WHY you are networking.

Trying to sell a specific product or service at a networking event can start you off on the wrong foot right from the get-go. Attend a networking event to meet people, listen, learn and add value.

2. Don’t be a shark.

We all want SOMETHING from our networking efforts. It’s how we go about getting ‘the something’ that matters. Your communication skills, your empathy and your authenticity will contribute to your success. (And don’t forget your sunny, engaging personality.)

3. Put your excellent communication skills to work.

The ability to present yourself, the skill of active listening, the art of asking questions, the insight of sharing relevant experiences …  All of these will help you navigate a networking event successfully.

4. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, fake it.

Confession: I used to hate networking. I wasn’t comfortable, I wasn’t sure what to say or ask, and frankly, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Thankfully, I’ve grown into ‘the networking skill’. Now, I have a hard time finding a downside to networking.

5. Make sure you follow up in a timely manner.

If you’ve promised to send someone a document, tip or book recommendation, do it the next day. You are fresh in their minds, and following up right away will reinforce the know-like-and-trust factor. This is easier if you have made notes on their business card or in a small notebook during your discussion.

6. Do a bit of research before you go.

Who is sponsoring the event and why? Who is attending? Doctors, lawyers, auto mechanics or astrophysicists? What do they need to be successful? Put yourself in their shoes before you go, and be ready to ask questions and really listen to the answers.

7. Learn the art of small talk.

Small talk gives us an opportunity to share a bit about ourselves while determining if we have common interests that encourage further exploration. If you are new at networking, prepare one or two opening lines and probing questions to get you started. The more you practice, the better and more natural you will become. And you don’t want to kill the conversation before it even starts.

What are your secrets to being a successful networker? Share them in the comments below. We can always learn from each other.

All the best,

Tracie Marquardt

Quality Assurance Communication

This article also appears on LinkedIn Pulse.