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Are Your Communication Skills Helping or Hurting Your Team?

Written on Feb 23, 2022
Habits of Highly Effective People                      (StockSnap / pixabay)


“Where I am not understood, it shall be concluded that something very useful and profound is couched underneath.” –Jonathan Swift, author and clergyman


Communication: It is fundamental in all facets of life. As important as it is, most of us rarely give much thought to this so-called soft skill.

You might have taken it for granted that you communicate just as effectively as anyone, but we want to encourage you to examine how you convey your knowledge to your work team. After all, your accounting insight is invaluable to your company, but if you cannot get your points across efficiently and compellingly, your time and expertise become limited. No one wants to put hours and effort into something that gets tossed aside because it isn’t understood or isn’t clear how it relates to a business strategy.

So how can you ensure that your verbal and nonverbal communication promotes synergy in the workplace? The co-workers, managers, investors, clients, and other professionals you come in contact with on a daily basis will appreciate your contributions if you do four simple things. Keep it:

  1. Clear, simple, and concise
  2. Appropriate to your target audience
  3. Welcoming
  4. Approachable

Keep It Clear, Simple, and Concise

Keep your key message in focus when writing that interoffice memo or presenting to a group. Avoid delving too deeply into technical details. Your busy colleagues will appreciate communication that gets right to the point. Consider summarizing your main points at the beginning of a longer email or PowerPoint presentation in which you have more than just a couple of major ideas to get across.

For face-to-face interactions, speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard. Avoid the “toos”--talking too fast, too slow, too informally, too loud, or at too low of a volume to be heard and understood. Practicing while recording yourself and then listening for areas needing improvement can be helpful.

Also, there are groups and classes designed to help you hone your public and interpersonal communication skills. For convenient, online classes, check out our CPE courses for Ohio accountants.  You’ll find a number of courses devoted to helping you master the art of communication. 

Keep It Appropriate to Your Target Audience

Tailor your communication to the listener. Depending on the situation, you might be speaking with or writing to someone in your same career field or persons across different educational backgrounds.

Keep technical jargon and accounting-specific abbreviations at a minimum when communicating with people of differing or unknown education statuses. Those terms may be time-saving when speaking to other accountants within your firm, but you risk misunderstandings and frustration when using them too often around team members from other fields of expertise.

If you find yourself falling into the habit of using accounting jargon, try to make it second-nature to explain what the term or abbreviation means to ensure that your audience is all on the same page.

“Inclusion works to the advantage of everyone. We all have things to learn, and we all have something to teach.” –Helen Henderson, journalist and activist 

Keep It Welcoming

Whether you are a contributing member of a team or in a supervisory role over one, employees today are looking for real-time communication that is open and transparent. No one wants to feel left out of information or opportunities to contribute.  

Develop a relationship with those you work with, openly talking about your ups and downs in business and life. Getting to know your team on a more personal level not only engages them and leads to an increase in their productivity, but it also is a chance for you to learn how they like to receive timely communications. For example, workers may have a choice to send and receive pertinent, real-time information through internal company systems, personal emails, or cellphones.

Make your eagerness to learn from them well-known so that they feel comfortable bringing ideas and potential stumbling blocks to your attention. Your openness and inclusiveness towards the input of others is an excellent way to gather new information, collect more accurate data, and ensure that you have your facts straight, ultimately making your job easier. 

Keep It Approachable

Your communication impacts the way others see you and feel around you. Additionally, it affects how your co-workers and staff think about the company they work for, their specific role within the company, and their teammates and leaders.

Believe it or not, you are powerful enough to be the reason one of your employees or teammates is either satisfied or dissatisfied on the job. To improve morale and information sharing, you must remain approachable. Your ability lies not only in your spoken and written word but also in your nonverbal cues.

Emotions:  Of course, you want to maintain your professionalism with a healthy dose of informality to foster relationships, but to do this, you must also exercise control over your emotions. Accounting can be stressful at times, so learn to smile and nod at clients with surprising demands.

Seek advice from co-workers and supervisors regarding difficult situations. Relax and take a few moments to breathe deeply by yourself. Take a brisk walk around the office to let off some steam. Stick a mirror somewhere on your desk so that you can see yourself talking on the phone as a reminder to smile–your smile CAN be heard in a conversation!

Body Language:  To improve your approachability, you must maintain control over your body language and avoid certain behaviors that, though they might be rooted in shyness or a social uneasiness, can communicate indifference or moodiness.

Maintaining eye contact is key to becoming an effective communicator. Your audience will be more engaged when you look them in the eye from time to time.

Avoid yawning or crossing your arms, which could give the impression that you are bored or indifferent. Avoid furrowing your brows so that you are not seen as offensive, antagonistic, or skeptical.

“Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” –Stephen Covey, The & Habits of Highly Effective People

Listen…really listen. Communication is a two-way street, so for it to be most effective, you have to be a good listener. Approach conversations with the openness of seeking to understand something that could make you a more valuable asset to your company. Learn to really hear a person rather than plotting what your response will be.

To practice, try ending conversations by summarizing what the other person said. Maintain eye contact when listening to show that the speaker has your attention. 

Manners: Remember to show your appreciation for the time and thought that others put into their communications with you. Gratitude can be easily and quickly conveyed with a simple “Thanks” or “Thank you for your time” when concluding a conversation or meeting. Understated but very much appreciated.

At its best, your communication could be the reason that the morale of those around you is improved, productivity is high, creativity flourishes, and turnover is low. At its worst, poor communication could lead to a divisive, unproductive work environment with high turnover and poor firm/clientele relationships. Good communication can make that much of a difference.  Need more information?  Our free, on-demand, CPE courses for Ohio accountants can help you improve your communication.

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