Three Ways to Enhance Effective Business Communication

Effective business communication, for the business professional, is already above average. However you and I know that business communication needs to be constantly added, improved and enhanced in order to keep us growing and to stay in the race of effective leadership.

Three important areas of communication in business are found in meetings, writings and presentations. Two of these require verbal activities and one written. Effective business communication means that meetings need to be lead (not let to happen). Writing needs to be clear, and presenting needs to be credible.

Here are three ways to enhance your effective business communication:

#1 – Effective business communication – Meetings need to be lead (not let to happen):

Let’s face it, most business colleagues hate meetings. Why? Because they are usually too long, unfocused, un-lead, boring, and too frequent.

So how does one undo this image of meetings?

For one thing, don’t call meetings on a moment’s notice, as too many do, and drag your people on for hours, taking away from their already overloaded work schedules. That’s one sure way to discourage them from coming to your meetings — let alone liking them.

It is good to realize that meetings cost a company a lot of money. If you have 5 people in your meeting who make twenty dollars an hour and you keep them for three hours, that’s three hundred dollars direct financial loss right there.

Then you have the actual time and productivity loss that each of the people is responsible for within each their department. While they are in the meeting, they are not working at their job function. If these are sales people the value lost is even multiplied.

So, one way to enhance your effective business communication within your meeting activities is to think of the cost of the meeting, then decide if it can wait for another day, then plan ahead, organize and edit it for maximum impact, giving it a definite shortest possible time-frame to get to the result that is expected of the meeting.

#2 – Effective business communication – Writing needs to be clear:

From what I hear people tell me, not many business folks like putting letters and memos together. It is a very happy person who enjoys this task. How efficient is your writing? Do you have a process that you go through before you begin writing?

If not, here’s some help: First, know the purpose you are writing about. Write directly to your reader. Write a draft first and don’t worry about mistakes.

Then re-arrange your draft into 1) a summary of your idea or purpose. 2) a summary of the actions you require of your reader as to who will do what (I, we, you, or personal name).

If the content is long, it is better to use two easy-to-read pages than one page stuffed with too much information and data that’s hard to follow. Break it down with the summary of your idea or purpose then refer to the actions to be taken which you outline clearly on the second page.

Revise and correct for sentence construction and grammar. Read as if you were receiving the letter. Then edit out unnecessary wordings. Add summary headings to paragraphs to make for easy scanning and reading.

#3 – Effective business communication – Presentations need to be credible:

You’ve all heard that the first impression counts. Well the last does too, and everything in between. The first impression captures the attention, the last leaves a feeling (bad or good) on your audience and the content in-between gives you credibility.

To make the introduction positive, point out the benefits to the audience of listening to what you have to say. Show the relevance to the concern or purpose. The idea is to answer the question: “Why should we listen to you?” before they even ask silently or out-loud.

Organize your presentation as you do your writing, first on a draft. Then break it down into point-form items, which you each write up on 3×5 or 4×6 cards to keep you on track or use transparencies or power-point.

Effective business communication is a continuous effort that is not drudgery but that is fun and interesting and required for continuous business success and leadership./dmh

Asia Business Communication 101

Since the dawn of human civilization, culture and communication are intimately related. As a matter of fact, one cannot survive without the other, and one is formed because of the other. Each culture has its own unique background, assumptions, experiences, expectations and diverse perceptions about certain matter.

And when at least two cultures collide in any business transaction, it is always inescapable to have difficult communication (e.g. miscommunication and misinterpretation) or a simple failure to communicate altogether. Let’s take China and United States as examples since both have been doing business for decades and are in close proximity as to who will rule as the ultimate economic superpower.

These two countries have their own respective sets of business etiquette. Both have different backgrounds and history. Both are huge nations with a variety of people living in their territories. These people also have their own set of standards when doing business, locally or abroad.

For example, people in northern China might have a different take in business etiquette than those in the southern part of the country and of those in the United States, and vice versa. They might share the same language but these lands are just so huge that their citizens tend to form their own set of cultural rules, standards and business customs apart from what their nation and society as a whole dictates.

Here are some common differences and challenges that business communication goes through when two different cultures try to communicate with each other.

Correspondence

In the US today, it is customary and widely accepted to conduct business using e-mail, instant messaging, and video conferencing. This type of correspondence is governed by the formality and professionalism of business communication. Thus, Americans regard this as a legal business voucher.

In China, things are a little bit different. Chinese don’t see the great importance and impact of emails in business correspondence. They often complain that their emails don’t work, or have restricted firewall settings. Emails in China are not supported by the mobile systems. As a result, emails are often rejected.

Americans are accustomed to communicating by any means available. On the other hand, Chinese highly regard face to face communication especially when doing business transactions with other countries. This difference one way or another influences the successful flow of business dealings between these two nations.

Language

Obviously, Chinese and Americans speak different languages. The problem here is not the language per se but how they use their language to communicate.

Chinese use their language based on their view of humanism and in keeping with their privacy. It is highly unusual for them to disclose their age, marital status, family, income and where they live to their foreign counterparts. It’s even rude if one (stranger) innocently asks them, “How’s your family?” A rather polite gesture in western culture.

Ironically, it’s quite natural and considered friendly for them to speak to others (e.g. Americans) casually. When asked, “Have you eaten?” Americans take it as a somewhat informal question not necessarily something one would ask during a professional meeting but to Chinese it is just a way of showing friendliness and hospitality.

Mindset

Chinese are collective thinkers and they put emphasis on the big picture. They believe in creating harmonious relationship with one another. On the contrary, Americans are personal value believers.

They put stress on individual idea, grouping a whole idea into small ones then dividing these groups into the simplest element, which they study individually. Americans are advocates of personal freedom, self-reliance, self-control, self-development and self-improvement.

Silent communication

When attending business meetings, it is a general rule to observe the greeting protocol of the host country. For example, Chinese are not particularly fond of any touching or patting on the back as a form of greeting but Americans are more familiar and at ease with this.

When being introduced, Chinese are very formal. They remain standing for the duration of the introduction. Even the level of their bow is based on seniority either by rank or age. But Americans are quite the opposite. They are informal and a little friendlier. They shake hands when introduced.

People in southern China say thank you by tapping their two fingers on the table. This practice is not known in the northern part of the country. When negotiating, people in Beijing tend to take their time before they come up with a decision. And when Chinese in general hint that their territorial integrity is not taken seriously, they tend to react very strongly, which to Americans is overkill and really unnecessary.

These are just a few of the differences that may come up when people of various backgrounds, cultures, traditions and customs meet. When overlooked or misjudged, they could affect the flow of the business communication and alter the outcome.

Thus, one must realize that to create profit-generating business communication, it is crucial to understand and recognize these differences especially when dealing with people from a different culture and customs. In the end, there is one purpose why people do business and persistently communicate in spite of their differences.

Business Communication: Money Speaks The Language Of Activity-Based Cost

Of all the activities of modern business, communication is the most basic. Communication is essential between businesses, between stakeholders, and between employees whether managers or front-line workers. However, there are many barriers to effective communication.

One of the most significant barriers is that different portions of a business communicate very differently than others. Just as different nations speak different languages; it seems at times, that different functions within the same business also speak different languages. Materials management uses different terms and has different priorities than engineering. Similarly, sales, marketing, and customer service also speak seemingly different languages. To complicate matters further, upper management speaks a different language than front line workers.

How do we encourage better communication especially within the walls of the business? Of course, we want to encourage listening and understanding, and empathy. But often, we need more! For spoken languages we use people who speak and understand both languages to facilitate communication between nations. What can we use to facilitate communication within a business?

Money talks. Or, so I’ve been told. How does money talk? It doesn’t actually talk. However, everyone uses money in their daily lives and thereby has some understanding of its value. Modern society functions because money has been standardized as a medium of exchange. There is no need to barter farm produce for gasoline. Even if money is denominated in a different currency such as the Euro or Yen, there are established means to exchange Euros for Dollars, or Yen for Euros, or whatever.

We use money to communicate within a business. We convert our functional languages of units produced, or number of worker hours, or tons of raw materials, etc. to monetary terms. In the end, the ultimate measure of business success is ongoing profitability measured, or course, in monetary terms.

How do we use money to communicate inside business operations? How about letting Finance & Accounting handle internal communications? We often think of Finance & Accounting as the keepers of the business’s money. However, handing all monetary communication over to them is an abdication of management responsibility. Why not? Don’t they use money in their reports?

Yes, they do! But, Finance & Accounting has the same barriers to communication that inhibit all other functional groups. Within Finance & Accounting, there are two primary disciplines: financial accounting and managerial accounting. Over the past century, financial accounting has had, by far, the most emphasis. Over this time, standards and principles have been developed to facilitate financial accounting. And, over the same period of time, these standards and principles have also been applied to managerial accounting. However, these standards and principles serve a different set of stakeholders, namely those external to the business. They do horrible job of servicing the internal stakeholders or the functional groups and managerial levels.

Instead, we need a different set of standards and principles for internal communication. Activity-Based Cost or ABC is a set of principles and standards whose prime purpose is to facilitate communication within the business. In this case, rather than relying on external bodies to formulate standards, we are free to create those that will serve our own business. In this case, common definitions or templates are established between functional groups of the business and between front line workers and upper management. The lowest common denominator is the activities performed within the various functional groups. Then from these activities, we link them together into cross functional processes. We trace the cost incurred by the business functions to the activities to provide their monetary perspective. Aggregating these by the various processes provide process cost perspective. Using common sense and cause and effect principles, activity cost is assigned to products, services, and customers to provide their monetary view. When compared to revenue, we have the profit perspective.

Now that we have a monetary means to communicate within the business, we can leave this to accounting to manage this communication medium. NOT! Given the importance of communication, it cannot be left exclusively to accounting or any one functional group. This communication is the responsibility of each and every function. As is the nature of any communication between human beings, communication barriers continually reappear. Ongoing diligence and attention is required to knock them down as fast as they appear. This is everyone’s duty.