I was having a look through my CV recently, just adding a few bits and bobs and generally updating it and I noticed I tell my would-be employer how well I communicate both effectively and efficiently. As I was reading this I thought to myself, ‘what does that actually mean?’ and then it occurred to me that if I wasn’t sure then I doubt any potential employer would be! It is all very well and good saying you are good at communicating but what are the skills and personality traits behind that statement? Also how do assistants apply this skill to their roles? Having thought about it I believe the ability to communicate effectively means the following:
- Before attempting any type of communication think about what it is that you are trying to convey. Organise this in your mind and stick to the key points. If you need to, write these key points down so that you can refer back if the topic runs away from you. This should be used in any form of communication from emailing someone to meeting them face to face.
- Be clear and articulate. I’ve found that since I started using Twitter I have become so much more concise in my writing. Having only 140 characters to express an opinion does engage the mind somewhat! • Maintain good eye contact, avoid mumbling.
- Listening is equally as important as speaking. I’ve heard the phrase ‘active listening’ quite often and don’t really know what this means except to say that you should actually be listening to what the other person is saying and also try not to interrupt them.
- Be aware of how you come across to others this includes your approach, tone of voice and body language. How we are thinking and feeling affects our communication style so try to remain positive even if you are in the foulest mood imaginable! We all have difficulties at work from time to time but try to remain upbeat and offer solutions rather than just having a general moan… That can be saved for your nearest and dearest outside of work!
- It is also important to be aware of other’s communication style, particularly for assistants as we deal with all types of people from clients to senior members of staff. Knowing how to adjust the way we communicate depending on the person we are speaking to is essential.
- Know how to communicate with your key stakeholders (by stakeholders I mean those that you deal with on a regular basis and have an influence over your role in the company). Think about how much of an impact these people have on your day-to-day work, how frequently you should communicate with them and which communication channel will be the most effective. I always find it useful to have a communication plan in place, particular if I am working on a new project or with colleagues I have not met before. It isn’t a grand document but a note to myself detailing how these people prefer to communicate, for example do they always call me even if I have only emailed them or visa versa do they only ever email, do they prefer face to face meetings or happy to receive a regular email update? Once I know how they like to communicate I can adjust my style so that we can work effectively together. Having a small plan in place also means that you do not become reliant on one type of communication channel. I can really overuse emails because they are quick and easy to ping out to everyone but if I am aware that I work with someone who prefers face to face communication I force myself to go and speak to them.
So now I know what I mean when I say I communicate effectively! I don’t get it right every time and have in the past uttered those dreaded words ‘no, that’s not what I meant!’ but you live and learn. If you can think about the best way to get your point across to the audience you are addressing then you are effectively communicating, something that I am sure all assistants have the ability to do.
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