26 Apr The Fundamental Importance of Communication Skills
Having been exposed to different industries from many different cultures, I have seen many educated, talented and capable people miss out on opportunities, not because they didn’t have the skills, experience or knowledge, but because they lacked the ability to clearly communicate their message.
Being able to tell others what you know, will improve your career opportunities and professional development and enhance your ability to achieve your true potential.
In a career spanning government, business and academia, I have seen and experienced a general lack of understanding of the need to focus on and invest in communication skills. This can have consequences to an organisations growth, reputation and sustainability and for the individual are they may not get the opportunities they deserve, they may not get the promotions they seek and they will definitely not get the financial benefits and rewards to which they aspire.
We have all seen people achieve greater success primarily because they are better able to let people know what they know.
Following some work I did over a number of years for one of our Universities in Sydney, I found that there was a general inability by many students to clearly articulate knowledge and understanding of their formal academic studies. Despite understanding the course content, I found that for the majority of students their written, verbal and presentation skills failed to reach an acceptable minimum standard, not only within the academic environment, but would have struggled in the commercial world, outside academia .
I submitted a paper titled “Presentation and Soft Communication Skills” for under graduate, graduate and post graduate students covering some ideas, options and solutions. I felt the “reputational risk” to any organisation or university which failed to address these communication and presentation issues were far too great.
In terms of social, environmental or economic sustainability any organisation or academic institution who fails to address the communication issues, will ultimately fail to attract quality staff or students.
The recent ABC Four Corners Episode on “Degrees of Deception” (ABC, Four Corner 20th April 2015) covered some of my concerns regarding minimum standards of communication skills and the consequences when academic knowledge is unable to be practically communicated once students enter the “real” world.
One of my previous roles was “Head of Strategy Service and Sales” in Regional and Agribusiness Banking in Business and Private Banking at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which I held for eight years. As part of this role, I was responsible for many initiatives which linked the banks vision, culture and core values to individual, division and group activities and behaviours. I found that the single most effective way to do this was to ensure they not only had the operational financial knowledge and skills, but they also had the ability to communicate and link these to the client’s aspirational goals, needs and wants.
All the specific programs I developed were linked to “how” the skills acquired through experience, exposure and education were to be pragmatically applied. Developing people and achieving maximum results through a range of mentoring, leading and coaching activities and techniques added considerably to those skills as each person became a better communicator.
This resulted in better internal and external client relationships, better responses and greater understanding by the client of what the bank was doing to assist them.
Additionally, as far as the bottom line was concerned, there were retention and acquisition benefits as well as organic and inorganic benefits which accrued to client satisfaction and the banks reputation and balance sheet. Whilst these core communication skills were included in targeted bank specific “initiatives”, these additional elements also contained fundamental life skills.
We are all on a journey through life to be the best we can be, how effective we are at being able to sell our own “value proposition” by communicating our skills, our knowledge or our experience to others will determine how far we get.