Top 4 Interpersonal Communication Skills You Need to Get Ahead at Work (2021 Update)

What are the most important skills to have to get ahead in your career? Some essential skills include increasing your visibility, getting others to perceive you in a positive light, developing your executive presence and having strong interpersonal communication skills.

What are interpersonal communication skills?

A general definition would be that interpersonal skills are the skills required to effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally. According to a recent article in Hubpages, Terersa Coppens groups interpersonal skills into four main categories:

Most interpersonal skills can be grouped under one of four main forms of communication: verbal, listening, written and non-verbal communication. Some skills such as recognition of stress and attitude are important to all forms of interpersonal communication. Effective communication skills result in mutual understanding. Poor communication wastes time and resources, get in the way of accomplishing goals and can sour relationships.

Some people may view interpersonal skills as a natural talent that people either have or don’t. But the truth is that they are skills that can easily be learned and developed. One of the best ways to improve any skill is through active and continuous practice. There are several ways in which all 4 types of interpersonal communication can be improved upon and several reasons why you may want to.

What are the 4 types of interpersonal communication?

Listening skills (possibly the most important of all communication skills) and verbal skills include:

  • Relaxation – a calm, self-confident manner allows for more coherent verbal expression and gives the impression of an active listener.
  • Positive attitude – all people prefer communicating with the happy, accepting person.
  • Empathy – by seeing, understanding and respecting another’s point of view, a person gains respect and the trust of others as a speaker and is seen as an attentive listener.
  • Understanding stress in yourself and others – allows for self-monitoring of your own verbal communication and a greater understanding of a speaker’s motivations; you realize when your tone of voice or word choice is affected by internal feelings of stress and as well understand when you are listening to someone who’s speech is affected by stress; it allows you to compensate accordingly.
  • Assertiveness – this quality is essential and fundamental to negotiation in that the participants express beliefs in a way others can understand but also respect the thoughts and feelings of all involved
  • Teamwork – includes adaptability and flexibility in dealing with differing personalities and differing interpersonal skill levels.

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Active listening – A successful communication skill

When listening to someone speaking, you can simply passively hear their message or actively listen to understand, learn, and respond. When learning how to listen to others actively, you can learn more about different people’s insights, perspectives, and experiences.

Using active listening in the workplace can accelerate growth personally and professionally because it facilitates learning from others and considering new ideas. This is undoubtedly one of the most vital skills that can be developed for personal growth. Since listening is one-half of effective communication exchange, it is almost impossible to communicate at all without it.

When we listen actively, we can respond effectively to ensure a beneficial. That is why listening with focus and effort can be critical while remaining as involved in the discussion as the speaker. Sharpening your listening skills can be an essential part of developing good interpersonal communication skills. Here are a few tips to help you build your active listening:

  • Focus on the conversation at hand. Try not to multitask but give the speaker your undivided attention.
  • Don’t interrupt the speaker. Interrupting someone might give off the impression that you don’t find what they are saying very important.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. Have patience and allow people to get to the point on their own time and do not try to finish their points for them,
  • Ask questions. This shows that you are interested and would like clarity and context.

Written Communication Skills and Interpersonal Communication

Nearly all jobs will require you to write something at some point. Effective written communication can be a make or break for effectively conveying a message to someone else. The ability to write clearly and concisely ensures that everyone you communicate with will understand the message that you are trying to give.

Written communication can share many of the same attributes as verbal communication, good sentence construction and word choice play a vital role in this type of communication, just as with verbal communication. There are, however, a few differences between written and oral communication. Where verbal communication relies greatly on body language, tone of voice and eye contact for added context clues, written communication must convey a message effectively without any of these.

To develop effective written communication, it is crucial to focus on skills that help you gain greater attention to detail and understanding of grammar, punctuation and word choice.

Written skills include:

  • Analysis – strong analytical and research skills are key in expressing new ideas and getting them accepted by co-workers and senior management.
  • Computer and technical literacy – these skills are essential in the business world as most written communication and all analysis of data occurs on the computer.
  • Professionalism – this quality is important in all forms of interpersonal communication including written communication; standard formats for business correspondence are common, and spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are unacceptable, eroding a worker’s value in the firm

Non-verbal interpersonal skills include:

  • Body language
  • Eye-contact
  • Micro-facial expressions

Eye contact: Its role in interpersonal communication

Eye contact is one of the best-known aspects of non-verbal communication. From eye contact or a lack thereof, it is possible to tell a lot about someone and their intentions. When someone can establish good eye contact, they are perceived as trustworthy and confident, at least according to western culture.

When someone subsequently fails to maintain eye contact, they are perceived as less credible or reliable when they look down or if their eyes constantly stray. That being said, there is also a more refined nuance when it comes to breaks of gaze. When expressing condolences, a drop of gaze might portray genuine sympathy or compassion. A drop in gaze may also display guilt or remorse when someone is being questioned.

Similarly, there are many different ways in which eye contact can be very revealing during a conversation. For example, an active listener will most likely focus their gaze on the speaker’s lips when conversing. If the listener breaks this gaze and makes eye contact with the speaker, it can be seen as a non-verbal cue that they would like to interject or say something.

Understanding these subtle nuances of non-verbal communication through eye contact can help you gain more context clues from the conversation and seem more credible and confident during discussions with others.

Body language in interpersonal communication

Body language is what you are saying when you aren’t saying anything. Often, your body language can speak the loudest when you are engaged in conversation with others. Your facial expressions, gestures, posture and tone of voice can reveal a lot about how you are feeling within a conversation.

Non-verbal cues, portrayed in the way you listen, look, move and react are essential in showing other participants in a conversation that you care, are trustworthy and that you are actively listening. Body language gets picked up subconsciously by others. When faced with believing your verbal message or the message portrayed by your body language, most people will feel inclined to judge you by your body language.

Body language is often instinctive and not conscious, which is why it can be a very good indicator of a person’s true feelings and intent. Most of us are constantly analyzing each other’s body language without even realizing it, which is why it can be very beneficial to be aware of your body and the messages you are conveying with it during conversations.

In his pioneering fieldwork, Professor Mehrabian made two key points:

  1. a) There are 3 elements in face-to-face communications, often called the “3-Vs:”
  • Verbal, or words
  • Vocal, or tone of voice
  • Visual, meaning non-verbal behaviours or Body Language
  1. b) Visual components communicate far more than verbal – in situations where the words are not compatible with the non-verbal signals – and people tend to believe the behaviour and the tone of voice, not the verbal message.

According to Professor Mehrabian, we evaluate the 3-Vs quite differently. His findings are often called the 7%-38%-55% rule or the Mehrabian formula:

  • 7% Verbal
  • 38% Vocal
  • 55% Visual

His formula was refined under research conditions where there was incompatibility, or incongruence, between words and facial expressions when communicating feelings and attitudes.

Why do interpersonal communication skills matter?

All of the above can reinforce the honesty, integrity and trust of personal interaction with co-workers and clients. In verbal exchanges, a person lacking eye contact is seen as dishonest and/ or lacking confidence in their words. Reliability and responsibility are also conveyed by positive gestures and body language that match the tone and content of the speaker’s voice. Excessive hand gestures and invasion of another’s personal space are intimidating and detracts from the value of the conversation. Leaders with poor non-verbal communication skills are not viewed as effective and leading to lower productivity and poor office morale.

Having good technical and professional skills paired with good communication skills can help professionals stay ahead of the competition. Having the ability to communicate effectively with co-workers, employees and customers can be very beneficial in building effective, solid and lasting interpersonal relationships.

These skills can help collaboration with others, provide guidance, support and reassurance, and convey information effectively. Understanding these skills will also enable you to read a room, understand how your actions affect others, and help you fully grasp what others are trying to tell you.

Interpersonal communication skills in the workplace

While it is imperative that employees possess the technical abilities to fulfill their duties, a well-functioning, effective team highly relies on each team member being able to communicate and highlight concerns with their peers. Technical skills are the hard skills needed to complete tasks, whereas people skills are the soft skills necessary for interpersonal communication and understanding.

A lack of interpersonal skills in a work environment can lead to many issues within the workflow and satisfaction within teams. Lack of communication can easily lead to frustration, disconnect and lowered morale and productivity. The team may not feel that they can function as a team. Communication can also be vital in ensuring that clients do not feel neglected or forgotten. This is why all employees must be able to communicate, provide feedback and listen to concerns.

Improved interpersonal communication in the workplace can be crucial to business success. It falls upon all employers and employees to develop self-awareness of their own interpersonal skills and work on the areas where they might be lacking. A business might be able to motivate its employees to strengthen their communication through incentives and training.

How to assess your own interpersonal communication skills

When assessing your interpersonal skills, many online tools and questionnaires may help you analyze how effectively you communicate with others. Knowing how to discern between effective and ineffective interpersonal skills can be very important as these skills can be the hardest to self-analyze. One way to assess your interpersonal skills is to evaluate all of the aspects of interpersonal communication individually and to determine how effectively you can master each.

Businesses can assess the interpersonal skills of their employees using tests, reports such as reference letters or peer feedback, and conversations with each employee. Employees might even be asked to evaluate each other on several aspects of interpersonal communication. Written and listening skills can be evaluated using comprehension and writing tests.

Although these assessments can be valuable in identifying employees that could benefit from interpersonal skills training, it is important to note that they can be indicative of previous performance and behaviour and might not be an accurate reflection of future performance. Therefore it may also be beneficial to observe employees outside of these assessments to see how they perform on a daily basis.

5 tips to improve your interpersonal communication skills

Developing strong interpersonal skills can be beneficial for both your professional and personal life.  There are many different ways in which these skills can be improved and perfected with some effort and dedication. Here are 5 tips to help you if you are looking to improve your interpersonal communication skills:

  • Practice maintaining appropriate eye contact – Actively work on giving attention to others during conversations to portray interest, validation and focus. This will also help you to avoid distractions around you.
  • Be truthful – Many times, people can be very intuitive, and it is surprisingly easy to pick up on defeat. Being honest with others will strengthen your relationships and maintain your reputation and integrity.
  • Become more aware of your gestures and posture during conversations – No matter how subtle your gestures may be, they can say a lot about you. For example, try not to cross your arms or slouch as this may show disinterest or boredom.
  • Stay positive – If you appear happy and optimistic, others will be more open to speaking with you as you appear non-judgemental, welcoming and accepting. Focus on how things can improve and develop instead of focussing on the negatives.
  • Read more – Reading will help you to grow your vocabulary and become more articulate. Being aware of global news, scientific developments and general knowledge will also help you communicate more effectively. Reading will also help you to improve your writing skills.

Reflect on your personal development regularly to continuously improve and learn. Be open to opportunities that might help you grow and understand the intricacies of interpersonal, verbal and non-verbal communication. It goes without saying that interpersonal communication skills are essential in any career or business as person-to-person interaction is required at any level and for virtually any job. Build key interpersonal skills by developing executive presence.

Master your leadership, social and interpersonal skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

leadership presence training program

Five Business Networking Faux-Pas To Avoid For Young Professionals

business-networking-young-professionalsStarting your career in your chosen field is certainly an exciting time in your life. As your career begins to take off and flourish, there are certain activities and behaviours you can engage in to make the transition into work like more successful and fulfilling. One of these activities is often dreaded and feared by most, let alone young professionals who have little to no practice engaging in it: networking.

Despite this inherent fear, many people choose to overcome it and engage in as many networking opportunities as possible. They do so because they’ve realized one simple truth: your network is your net-worth. The more people you know, the more relationships you form, the more you will succeed in your field, whatever field that may be and regardless of the position you hold.

Now that we’ve established the importance of networking, there are some behaviours to stay away from when at a networking event. These behaviours will serve to not only undermine your executive presence, but will also result in a less-than-stellar networking “performance.” Here are four faux-pas to avoid while networking:

  1. Smelling like smoke
    It is understandable that many people smoke these days. However, if you are a smoker, it is really important that you do not go into a networking event right after smoking a cigarette. Non-smokers (and even many smokers) can’t handle the smell of second hand smoke on someone else. Remember, you are going to this event to meet people and engage them, and turning them off with cigarette smoke is not a great way to start.
  2. Trying to talk to everyoneIt is true that in networking and in business networking, the idea is to touch as many people as possible. You definitely do not want to be talking to the same person the whole night, as that defeats the purpose! However, you don’t want to be simply introducing yourself to someone, handing them your card and then moving on. It is important to establish a rapport with someone before you exit the conversation, to ensure they remember you. Handing them your card is simply not enough to do that.
  1. Have professional-looking business cards, no matter what stage you’re at
    Even if you are still a student, it is important to have professional-looking business cards (and enough of them!). Heavy card stock is always good, and a simple, clean look can go a long way. Make sure your information is easy to read and straightforward. If you are a student, your school likely has a business card format that you could use.
  2. Don’t bring a friend
    The idea at networking events is to meet new people, not to catch up with a friend. Often, when friends go to networking events together, they spend most of their time talking to each other. Going alone will force you to engage with and talk to others.
  3. Don’t drink too much
    This may seem like an obvious one, but often in stressful situations where we don’t feel the most comfortable, another glass of wine usually seems like a great idea. Having a few drinks over the course of the evening is acceptable; overdoing it to the point of inebriation will seriously damper your chances of a successful evening of networking. Pace yourself to one drink an hour, alternate with a glass of water or soft drink, with an absolute limit or three.

Networking can sometimes be scary and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are equipped with the right tools and know what behaviours to avoid, chances are you will have a fun and successful networking experience! Networking doesn’t always have be done at organized networking events, either. Check out our post on unique places you can network!

Self-Knowing and Authenticity

Alas! We have finally reached the last blog post on Leadership Presence – self-knowing and authenticity. Over the past few weeks, we’ve discovered what leadership presence means, what it can do for you, and how to attain it. Last week we began to dissect the final piece of the puzzle in the quest to obtaining leadership presence: self-knowing. This week, we continue with this theme but discuss it in terms of authenticity.

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What is authenticity? Well, at its most basic level, it means to be genuine. To be genuine is to be oneself. The ability to connect with others in the business world is of the utmost importance, however the connecting must be done genuinely, or authentically, for it to have any meaning or impact.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, there are three rules for authenticity. We shall discuss each in detail below.

Rule #1: Accept yourself and be open to growth (Halpern and Lubar 230)

Many of the greatest leaders feel comfortable and happy with themselves, despite their shortcomings. They know of their weaknesses and work to improve them, however they also accept them. When you’re aware of, and accepting of, your limitations it will allow you to develop the skills you need to overcome them. In addition, a good leader will know if their limitations cannot be overcome, at least in a timely manner, and in that case will delegate the task to someone more appropriately equipped to handle the situation. One of the best ways to accept yourself is to be open to hearing commentary about yourself and your performance, including criticism.

Rule #2: Live your values (Halpern and Lubar 235)

 In the last blog, we discussed values and how important they are to a leader. Well, it’s one thing to have values, however it’s another to put them into practice, especially in a workplace setting. Halpern and Lubar suggest leaders take two related steps in order to make sure their actions are congruent with their values:

  1. Ask others straight up if they believe you are someone who lives your values.
  2. Every time you speak of your values, ask others to tell you when your actions don’t align with your values.

It’s one thing to realize or discover that your actions don’t align with your values. If and when you do realize this, it is imperative you do some soul searching in order to figure out why this discrepancy exists, and then come up with a plan to correct the discrepancy. Remember, when your actions and values don’t align, you risk being perceived as inauthentic.

Rule #3: Create an authentic connection to work (Halpern and Lubar 240)

In order for a leader to be their most inspiring, authentic self, they must connect their values and interior life to the work that they do, similarly to how actors need to create a true connection to the characters they are portraying. At the end of the day, it is simply about creating meaning; if you truly believe in what you do and say, others will recognize that and will want to follow you. Connecting authentically with others allows the leader, as well as the led, to connect with something “bigger than themselves and their own self-interest” (Halpern and Lubar 247).

Being a leader is not about being “the boss”; it is about much more than that. It’s about inspiring, connecting, and motivating others to succeed and reach their highest potential. It is about communication, values, and the ability to make decisions. The steps we’ve outlined over the past few weeks are not necessarily the easiest things to do (opening up to others and becoming vulnerable is typically an anxiety-causing activity for most), however, if put into practice, they will help you achieve the leadership presence you deserve and need to reach the next level.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Making Connections

As our series of blogs on Leadership Presence continues, our hope is that you take some of these suggestions into practice, in order to foster leadership presence in yourself, not just at work, but in every aspect of your life.

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Last week we discussed reaching out and empathy, and this week we continue on the topic of reaching out, but specifically reaching out and making connections.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, empathy not only requires seeing and feeling, but also expression. What do they mean by this? It is what you do to communicate and act upon empathy that truly counts.

The focus of this entry is building relationships. The trick to building relationships, which is absolutely necessary if you want to be considered a leader, is to do so with empathy. But how?

 

Rules For Building Empathetic Relationships (Halpern and Lubar 109)

  1. Listen to build relationships
    1. This week again we see the importance of listening. The authors suggest listening for subtext (look for hidden meaning and emotion in the persons words). In addition, they suggest listening for the persons values and strengths, which can be an easy way to connect with someone.
  2. Acknowledge the person
    1. It is important, when listening, to acknowledge feelings, values and strengths that the other person might be trying to get across, but in a not-so-obvious fashion. The idea here is to turn off the “problem-solving” part of the brain when someone comes to you for help, and really listen to what they are saying beneath the words themselves. Another way to do this is to offer positive insights based on what you heard the person say. Remember, “people want to be loves, heard, and made to feel important.”
  3. Share yourself
    1. “Openness is critical for coaching” (119), say Halpern and Lubar in their book. This statement could not be truer, especially in business. It is integral to be vulnerable if you are to be a successful coach. Reveal the chinks in your armor, so to speak, and let others see who you really are; they will be more likely to follow you if you do.

It is important to mention that, although opening up and sharing yourself is necessary if you want to be a successful leader, there is also a limit. The authors suggest doing this in stages (offering bits of information here and there), and seeing how others respond. Don’t tell others your life story the moment you meet them!

The challenge this week is to try to open up and become vulnerable (yes, this will likely be difficult, and possibly even uncomfortable!), and see how others respond to you. Remember, it is all about making connections, and you wont be able to do so if you’re a vault!

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

Bright Ideas: Incite Creativity in the Workplace

idea_1024x570Creative workplace environments should not be limited to so-called “creative” industries such as graphic design, film, or the arts. In fact, creativity should be present in any workplace, no matter the industry or department. Whether you work in HR, sales, or finance, creativity must be encouraged for your company to advance. Here are a few ideas to foster creativity in the workplace.

  • Encourage a collaborative environment.
    In many cases, the saying “two heads are better than one” often rings true in a workplace. Staff members often bring different academic backgrounds and various professional experiences to the table. Encourage employees to work together and combine their various skills and experiences into new ideas.

    You can encourage collaboration by assigning group projects, creating team-building activities, or re-adjusting physical spaces at work. Even providing an open-concept space in an office set up with cubicles or closed offices can make a big difference.

  • Invite new ideas and foster open conversations.
    Some employees may feel shy or intimidated to contribute their ideas, especially if they are new to the company or inexperienced. But everyone can contribute something unique based on their own individual perspectives and backgrounds.

    Invite dialogue by creating “safe” and low-pressure environments where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas. This could include a staff bulletin board, an online forum available only to staff in your company, or a monthly meeting designed for brainstorming and casual yet productive conversation.

  • Inspire employees to think differently by adopting a new routine.
    We often become stuck in a rut when we fall into habits, performing the same routine day after day. But mixing up our quotidian routines can expose us to new thought patterns and new perspectives. Bring a new routine into your workplace by providing staff with opportunities to participate in trainings or lunch and learns. Whatever the topic may be, new learning opportunities can spark ideas and inspire employees to continue learning both on and off the job.
  • Allow others to lead.
    As a leader in your company, you may be accustomed to being the one designated to lead initiatives and forge ahead with business developments. But an opportunity to take the reins can provoke other employees to perform their best and strive to make a good impact on the company.

    Invite others to lead where they may not otherwise have a chance, even on smaller projects or initiatives within the organization. This gesture will also demonstrate to employees that their original ideas matter to the company and that they are valued.

To learn more about creativity in the workplace, see Forbes’ “Six Ideas to Promote Innovation in the Workplace” or Entrepreneur’s “The Three Elements Needed to Build Creative Genius in the Workplace.” How do you incite creativity in your workplace?

Internal Communication and Respect: Just as Important As External Relations

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a01_ur_gr_win-employees-respect-800x800Have you ever been to a shop or a restaurant and spoken with a friendly, helpful manager – only to watch that manager turn around and speak rudely to his or her employees? At that moment, did the store or restaurant suddenly lose its credibility? Think about this situation and apply it to your own company: does your organization respect its employees as much as its external clients and partners?

Even for companies that prioritize customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees. Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organization that has weak internal relations. Also, an organization likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.

Here are a few strategies to consider for improving your company’s internal communication:

  • Invite different forms of communication.
    While certain employees might feel that a face-to-face discussion is the most effective way to communicate, others may be more comfortable with email correspondence. As management, suggest different forms of communication through which employees can reach you or their supervisors directly. In addition, resources such as staff-wide forums (online or in-person) or informal monthly gatherings keep multiple communication channels open – and set the tone for a culture of communication.
  • Provide clear solutions for problem solving.
    It is important for employees to know where to go or whom to speak with when issues arise in the office. Otherwise, small problems occasionally can grow into job-threatening issues. The most obvious solution is having a strong and approachable Human Resources department. Ensure that HR employees are at the top of their game through professional development training and conference opportunities
  • Promote interdepartmental communication.
    In most companies, various departments rely on one another to complete their own work, whether directly or indirectly. However, many departments end up working in silos with little to no understanding of the objectives of other teams in the same company – even those working right down the hallway. Through team-building solutions and company-wide events, promote interdepartmental communication.

    It is important for staff to understand how their work fits within the work of the whole company as well as how it contributes to the efforts of others. With a better collective understanding of the overarching institutional objectives and strategies, employees will be able to pinpoint how their work contributes to the company as a whole – thereby finding more meaning in their own work.

  • As management, find ways to respond to employees directly.
    Simply because of the overwhelming number of responsibilities for executive-level staff, it is often necessary for an assistant to respond to emails and manage the bulk of the communications. Occasionally, however, it is important for employees to be able to reach company leaders directly. Employees should know that upper management is aware of the work and that it matters to the success of the company. Even a brief encouraging email to a department or an acknowledgment on a first-name basis can make a difference.

 

 

How Business Etiquette Contributes to Engaged Workplaces

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Recently, The Globe and Mail released a report on the 50 most engaged workplaces in Canada. Engagement in the workplace, which, according to The Globe and Mail, is defined by “employees’ passion for their work and commitment to the company’s vision,” holds significant influence on a company’s success on so many levels: employee retention, customer relations and the ability to deliver on objectives, among countless others.

Business etiquette undeniably is a part of what creates an engaged workplace. The judging panel for this award evaluated companies based on the following eight elements: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate and social responsibility. How is business etiquette integral in certain elements of this criteria?

Communication
Business communication takes many forms: from internal to external, interpersonal to technological, everyday exchanges to larger issues management. For a business to be successful, all channels of communication must run smoothly, and business etiquette can facilitate this success.

  • Technological Communication ranges from email, texting, phone calls, voicemail, or conference calls – any form of communication that is not face-to-face. When you think about how often you use tech-based communication every day, mastering the nuances of these forms of communication – such as how to introduce yourself on a conference call or how to compose a respectful email in a difficult situation – becomes essential.
  •  Interpersonal Communication also can occur in various situations: casual meetings between colleagues, an important client or partner dinner, or a networking event. A gauge on properly handling communication in any one of these contexts is crucial to making professional connections.

Professional and Personal Growth
A company that provides its employees with the potential for growth and development is certainly on a path to success. Opportunities like seminars, trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, or individual consulting can make a world of difference in an employee’s performance.

When business etiquette, professional image or executive presence are addressed in these contexts, an individual becomes more confident and self-aware, while simultaneously contributing the benefits and strengths of their newly sharpened traits to the rest of the team. Corporate Class Inc. provides a Executive Presence System, includes six core modules: interpersonal communication skills, techno-communication skills, workplace etiquette and best practices, presentation skills, business dress and executive dining skills.
Culture
A harmonious workplace culture functions on the respect that employees have for their colleagues, their company and for themselves. This respect is made manifest through good workplace etiquette – in essence, a necessary standard for how employees treat one another.

It’s no wonder that business etiquette and professional development are key to a company’s success – simply look no further than the role of business etiquette in the elements that define Canada’s top 50 most engaged companies!

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Setting the Stage in Your Company with Good Communication & Business Etiquette

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Directors, VPs, managers and other business leaders hold the keys to facilitating vital client and partner relationships, and so must present their best possible image and business etiquette skills when dealing with external contacts. Equally as important is for these company leaders to set the stage within their businesses and exhibit the same top-notch communication and conduct with their own employees. This is important not only for individual employee retention and morale, but also to keep the company as a whole running smoothly and cohesively.

Are you a business leader? Take note of these tips to project a top-notch image and facilitate good communication within your company.

  • Schedule occasional “check in” meetings with each individual on your team. Make an effort to connect with each individual in an informal setting (such as a coffee date or lunch), so that they can voice any concerns, discuss their current status, or simply catch up. Your willingness to set aside dedicated time for individuals will show your staff that you value each team member’s contributions and that you treat all levels of employees with the same respect.How often you meet and with whom depends on the size of your company: if you run a smaller organization, be sure to set aside time for everyone from colleagues on the management team to members of the support staff. If you are in a larger company, ensure you connect with everyone within your department, and advise managers of other departments to do the same.
  • Facilitate team-building or strategy exercises.
    With the fast pace of day-to-day obligations and minutiae, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and where the organization is headed. It is up to the company leaders to arrange for the group to take a step back and remind the team of the overall and cohesive objectives of the business. Organizing group sessions that invite all employees to review larger perspectives and long-term strategies are beneficial for keeping the team on the same path.Team-building activities unrelated to business objectives are also advantageous; fun and casual sessions that sharpen collaborative skills will be a refreshing exercise to most employees. Also, this will once again positively display your willingness as a manager to take extra time to focus on staff development and morale.
  • Invite anonymous feedback and criticism.
    Even providing the option for members of staff to voice their criticism shows that you are willing to grow and change as a leader to fit your employees’ needs. Staff will appreciate your readiness to listen and to incorporate feedback, whether or not they have any criticism of your management style.
  • Set an example with your best professional image.
    As a business leader, you must project the best professional image, not only to represent your own and your company’s professionalism, but also to set the tone and expectations for your own employees.A refined image will demonstrate to your staff that you are a serious, hardworking and confident leader. It will also encourage them to follow the same level of professionalism, so that your whole team represents the caliber of your company as you define it.

 

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Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business

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In a humorous and insightful essay in last weekend’s issue of the Globe and Mail, Katrina Onstad analyzes today’s growing disappearance of eye contact, which she cites as “the most potent tool of body language.” This essay struck a note with me, particularly because eye contact is so critical for effective communication and engagement in business, not just in social life. Likewise, knowledge of how to use devices respectfully, especially smart phones, is also very important – and, as Onstad notes, is a central reason for the current absence of eye contact and therefore engaged communication. Her concept, put in a business perspective, could help you keep on top of your game in business communication.

 

Engaged Speaking and Listening

As we have shared in another recent blog post on body language tips, body language can help to make or break your career. And as eye contact is a significant component of body language, it certainly carries weight in your career-related interactions.

In one-on-one situations, eye contact demonstrates to the other person in the conversation that you are interested in what they have to say. As your posture and gestures can reflect boredom or disengagement, a lack of eye contact will make this painfully obvious. As you will see in my earlier post, if what you say is not congruent with your body language, then people will believe your body language and not your words.

Eye contact is necessary during individual conversations. A less obvious context but equally as important for good eye contact is during public speaking or talking to a group. Effective public speakers scan the audience during a talk, maintaining eye contact with listeners in the crowd. When up onstage, keep in mind not to focus on one person the whole time, but move your eyes throughout the crowd. This will make the listeners feel like you are speaking directly to them as individuals, and will keep them engaged throughout the duration of your speech.

Likewise, even in a more casual context of a group or staff meeting, be sure to allow your eyes to move from person to person. Again, this will create the effect that you are speaking to them instead of at them.

 

Focus on the Conversation

Another component of Onstad’s essay that is both inseparable and foundational to her argument for sustaining eye contact is the argument that our devices – most notably, our cell phones – are making us less engaged with those around us. This concept is also important to keep in mind in a business setting, whether we are interacting on a daily basis with a colleague or trying to impress a client.

 

Cell Phones in Meetings

Often in day-to-day meetings, it is considered acceptable to have a smart phone or laptop present, as the rest of the workday continues and people need to keep on top of their tasks and emails. Nevertheless, try to check emails minimally, and don’t have a phone sitting right in front of you – or else you will be tempted to pick it up every time you receive an email. In doing so, you will be removing yourself from the discussion or blatantly disregarding what someone is saying.

It is for this reason that many companies have established a “no devices” policy during certain meetings, notably during staff meetings that occur only once per week or month. Otherwise, members present risk being distracted by other work.

During important and less frequent meetings, such as those with external clients or guests, no devices should be present. Keeping preoccupied with one would not only reflect poorly on you, but also on your company. If your ringer goes off during such a meeting, turn off the phone without checking to see who is calling and apologize after the meeting.

Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Though phones and other devices are often acceptable in meetings, it is never appropriate to keep one on the table (or on your lap) during a meal. Again, if you are out on a business lunch with a client or a company guest, bad business etiquette becomes a poor representation of your company.

While cell phones on the dinner table are inappropriate, it is equally unacceptable to try to use a phone discreetly – due to the reality that it simply won’t be discreet. In her essay, Onstad describes a situation that happens all too frequently:

You are mid-sentence and suddenly the listener’s eyes slide southward to her own hand or the table or her lap. Whether she glances back immediately or – and this hurts – begins pecking away at whatever device proved more important than the final part of your sentence, the moment of connection that came before has snapped like a twig.

In business, moments like these are not only rude, but they can also be destructive to your credibility.

In daily life, remembering to put down our devices and make eye contact is important if we want to actively engage with our surroundings and with the people around us. In business, doing just that is crucial to effective communication, to displaying the best level of professionalism, and ultimately to advancing your career.

 

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Working a Room: The ABC’s of Interrupting a Conversation

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Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert when it comes to entering a room full of strangers you break into a sweat and have butterflies flying in your stomach. Working a room can be hard, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

A recent post I read talks about the top four most “uncomfortable” moments when working a room:

  1. Starting the interaction
  2. Breaking off an ongoing conversation
  3. Bringing someone new into your conversation
  4. Interrupting an ongoing conversation

The post offers a few pointers on the last point, “interrupting an ongoing conversation,” as that can be one of the most uncomfortable things to do from the above four.

So if you want to walk up to a group and join their conversation, here are some tips:

First, take a deep breath & realize that people in networking events EXPECT you to break into their conversations. You’re introducing them to new people (yourself) without them having to interrupt someone else’s conversation. Some people will be absolutely giddy that you’re rescuing them from the previous conversation.

Second, breaking into someone else’s conversation takes some guts but it gets easier with practice. It’s as easy as A-B-C:

A. Do what you would do if you saw someone you already know. That is, walk up & catch the eye of one member of the group, then stick out your hand to shake his/her hand.

B. Say, “Excuse me. I’m ____. May I join your conversation?” Amazingly creative, huh? But, as with “Open Sesame,” the group will magically open up to make room for you.

C. Sometimes the group is in a meaty conversation when you walk up, so just introduce yourself briefly with your name (no elevator speech at this point) & say, “You looked as if you were in an interesting conversation when I walked up. Please continue.”

Building your business network by working a room well can be as easy as A-B-C if you know how to do it well and with confidence.

When it comes to business networking, the little things you do make a big difference.

Interpersonal Communication Skills training can be a great way to learn all about working a room including tips on reading body language, prepping up your conversation skills, perfecting your handshake and much more.