Strategic Essentials

Improve Productivity with Communication

Written By Paul J. Meyer. (Reprinted with permission)

Business leaders often state that one of the greatest needs in the workplace is people who can communicate.

Once goal setting and planning are accomplished, goals and plans must be communicated to others whose cooperation is needed. Effective communication unifies employees and their work to the overall purpose and direction of
the organization. Through communication, you raise your organization’s levels of energy, enthusiasm, and productivity!

Mastering the art of communication is a complex process demanding time and ongoing effort. But choosing to continually improve your communication skills increases your productivity dramatically and the productivity of those around you.

As you communicate, you reap these valuable results:

  • Satisfying relationships with others;
  • Well-coordinated, goal-directed work activity;
  • New ideas;
  • Agreement on shared priorities;
  • Avoidance of costly mistakes; and
  • Increased profits and marketplace competitiveness as employees take action on important messages.


Communication is the exchange of ideas between two people for the purpose of eliciting some kind of action. Most often, we think of communication as expressing our ideas to someone else. That is one part of it, but not all.

William James, known as the founder of modern psychology, said that the greatest human need is to be understood andappreciated. To meet that need, effective communicators must understand others before trying to influence them.

Successful communication is a two-way process. You must present your ideas in a form others can understand, and you must, in turn, listen to others to understand how your message is received.

Such mutual understanding is necessary if the purpose of any communication is to be achieved.

Understanding others depends upon empathy. Empathy is the ability to look at a situation from the viewpoint of another and understand that person’s feelings and beliefs. Empathy is closely associated with most of the skills usually labeled as human relations skills, or the ability to get along with people. Empathy recognizes the inherent right of each person to hold personal views.

Understanding another’s feelings and beliefs does not mean that you are forced to agree with or accept that point of view. Such understanding is the basis of sensitivity to the needs of others, flexibility in dealing with those needs, and fairness and objectivity in helping others fulfill their needs.

Undoubtedly, you have heard it said, “Put yourself in the other person’s place.”

“As you learn more about your team members, your communication reaches far beyond the level of basic information exchange.”
– Paul J. Meyer

However, for a deeper level of empathy, do more than imagine yourself in the other person’s place; imagine what it is like to be the other person – with that person’s individual personality, desires, fears, and dreams – in that situation. Knowing what you would do is not enough; empathy is imagining how the other person feels.

Empathy is basic to at least four principles of effective communication:

Organize your ideas.

Even the most disorganized people have some order in their thought processes. Present your ideas in an organized way, and others comprehend them better.

First, be sure your ideas and your thinking are crystal clear to you. Write them down. Organize them in light of what you know about others.

When you are absolutely certain you have organized your own ideas, you can be more confident they will be understood and accepted.

Tap into People’s Interests.

People are constantly bombarded by sights, sounds, and ideas competing for attention. A pattern of habits and attitudes affects their acceptance of ideas that seem to promise satisfaction of their needs.

Empathy allows you to present your message in a form that fits into the existing pattern. When you understand other people’s interests and phrase your ideas in those terms, you communicate effectively.

Paint a Picture

Some words suggest logic. They appeal to reason and fact. Other words appeal to emotions, to desires, and to needs. Words of both logic and emotion can contribute to painting pictures of ideas.

Recognize the needs of others and express your ideas in words that form a mental picture that promises to supply those needs. Word pictures engage both the mind and emotion of the listener to produce a lasting impression.

Vary Your Communication Style

To motivate or to influence someone else, use the communication style most comfortable and familiar to that person. Adjust your style to enable the listener to understand and accept your message without the need to “translate” it into a more acceptable style.

When working with a team, be aware of the communication styles that are different from yours and capitalize upon the strengths of those differences.


Promote two-way communication by asking effective questions. Ask questions to bring answers that give you a genuine understanding of the viewpoint of others.

When you demonstrate empathy through asking questions and genuinely listening, others feel valued and respected. You also gain valuable information you can use later to make informed decisions.

When your primary aim in a conversation is to draw out information, begin by asking easy questions. Questions that are easy to answer relax the other person and dissolve tension. When you demonstrate your willingness to listen and remain nonjudgmental, you obtain more information and build a positive relationship for future communication.

The type of question that produces active involvement of the listener is the open-ended question. An open-ended question cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. Open-ended questions begin with phrases like these:

  • “How do you feel about . . .?”
  • “What do you think . . .?”
  • “Why . . .?”
  • “What happened?”

Open-ended questions go beyond extracting basic information to . . .

  • Identify problems
  • Uncover underlying feelings, attitudes, and needs, and
  • Encourage the sharing of valuable suggestions and solutions

Become expert at asking open-ended questions that encourage people to tap into their own creative resources. Be patient as you improve your questioning skills in routine conversations.

As you learn more about your team members, your communication reaches far beyond the level of basic information exchange. An amazing amount of information can be gained from asking open-ended questions that inspire people to select relevant information, form personal opinions, develop new methods and ideas, and reveal underlying emotions.


When you ask a question, listen attentively to the answer. Listen for the total message. Listen to the words themselves, to the manner of delivery, and to what is not said.

Ten percent of communication comes through words, 30 percent by sounds, and 60 percent by body language.

Observe and evaluate body language, emotion, attitudes, and any other apparent external or internal factor. Because it is one of the master human relations skills, effective listening is worth the time it takes to refine and polish.

Listening multiplies the value of the information you receive. You gain a reputation for courtesy and concern – traits that enhance your leadership and effectiveness.

Reprinted with permission from LMI Journal Volume III, Number 4

Strategic Essentials is a Managing Partner for Leadership Management International.

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