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I have received a lot of good advice from Manager tools in the past and hope this will be no different.  I have recently been promoted to a larger department and higher position.  With this promotion came the clear and convincing evidence that I am not a good communicator.  This is mainly face to face communication and often pertains when addressing larger groups. 

In my previous positions I was able to get by on hard work and technical ability.   That is clearly not the case now.  I feel overwhelmed in meetings and on conference calls due to my inability to articulate what I am thinking(not to mention my thoughts on any particular item are often a couple steps behind others). 

In being honest with myself, I have never been a good communicator whether in social settings or professional.  As I mature it is becoming more evident that I must improve on this skill if I am going to be successful. 

My quesiton to you is how do I do that?  What are some tips on improving communication skills?  Do groups such as Toastmasters help improve overall communications skills?  Books out there specific to this topic that you recommend?  I have always struggled making deep connecitions with other people and it is clear I wont be a successful leader unless I am able to do this.

Thanks

SMcM's picture

Hi,

I have also found it very hard to communicate and since learning about DiSC I feel I have improved. It is very hard work but I come out of less conversations now feeling frustrated that it didn't go well. I went to one of the effective communications conferences last year and it was brilliant and really helped. I would strongly recommend going to one. If you can't then listen to all the DiSC podcasts.

I don't think this is an easy skill. With small changes and by thinking about DiSC whenever possible it can really help.

Good luck.

Cheers,

Stuart.

dfwcanes's picture

I was tasked with communication on my performance review this year. My one on one communication is good, I just need to get more comfortable in group meetings and share my opinions and thoughts.
when I read the review, I couldn't agree with it more.

My boss asked me if my goal was still to become a plant manager. He said "if so, you need to work on this"

I received high marks on everything else.

 

He gave me a development plan of running his meetings and doing plant town halls.

Which makes my knees quake.

I put a call into brother, who is a toastmaster guru. We are working on some communication plans and video sessions. We are going for clear and concise.

 

I would definitely look into toast masters.

 

Good Luck

 

SamBeroz's picture

Each speech project builds on the previous one, encouraging members to practice both different speech types (entertainment, information, persuasion, inspiration) and different speaking skills (organization, body language, vocal variety, humor, repetition, imagery, repetition, etc).

The flip side of this is that Toastmasters develops your listening skills by asking you to provide feedback to the speakers on what they did well and what they could improve on.  This has helped bring to my attention (and remedy) some bad habits I didn’t even know I had.

If you don’t have time to put together a 5-7 minute speech that’s fine too.  Typically, there’s a portion of the meeting dedicated to getting you to think on your feet, where you can volunteer to speak off the cuff for a couple minutes on whatever topic you’re given.

We’re a friendly bunch and guests are always welcome.  - Sam

 

jhbchina's picture

I second the motion that you attend ToastMasters.

"Brilliant group, great program, good system, wonderful people, COMPLETE AND UTTER NO BRAINER."

Mark Horstman

Read this forum thread   http://www.manager-tools.com/forums-911

JHB "00"

gradschoolmarkter's picture

Ditto on everyone else's Toastmasters support. I joined a small group, which allowed me to get a lot of talking time. It would have been nice to be a part of a larger group so I could get a more diverse range of feedback, but I was able to get through the program quickly.  The sheer act of speaking in front of a group so often helped me immensely.

I assume you've already listened to the various archived MT podcasts since you're a member, but if you haven't, there is lots of gold there for systematically building relationships.  I've listened to many of them more than once.

mikehansen's picture

Here is some more detail if it helps clarify what Toastmasters and DISC bring to the table.

Toastmasters:

  • Public Speaking - Toast Masters is great for getting comfortable speaking in public, which address your "larger groups" point.  I think practice is the only real way to get comfortable on this point, and TM provides it.
  • Thinking on your feet - TM meetings involve several activities that require folks to think and speak on their feet.  Table Topics require a spontaneous commentary for 60 seconds on a topic you just heard about.  It is really hard to fill that 60 seconds!  You will get better over time and this will help you articulate your thoughts in meetings.
  • Run on sentences and "UMs" - These are the verbal noises that we make when we are thinking but not yet ready to say anything meaningful.  It is our way of "keeping the floor" when we are talking.  It is much more effective to be able to make your point cleanly and stop talking.  Toast Masters will beat the "ums" out of you.

DISC

  • DISC makes you aware of other peoples communication styles and how to adjust your communication style to make them more comfortable.  It is great for one on one discussions, but you will find yourself using in in group meetings as well.  There are plenty of great casts here on DISC.

I also found the "how to have a conversation" cast great for informal conversations.

One final tip I use in group discussions:  Do not immediately speak after someone else is done talking.  Wait a full 1 second before chiming in and making your point.  At times, you will lose your opportunity to make a point (that is OK).  It will make you a lot more effective.  Folks who take the floor immediately when there is a pause are typically not actively listening to what is being said, which you must do if you want to be effective.

Hope this helps,

Mike

PeteDenton's picture

Lots of great advice on here.  I just have four more things to add that may help:

1. I apply the basic rule of teaching  to any presentation/session where I want people to remember something.  Basically is says:

  • Tell them what you're going to tell them (i.e. introduce the main topics in a brief introduction).
  • Tell them it (the main body of the presentation). 
  • Finish by telling them what you told them (a concluding summary of the key points).

2. Read the pyramid principle by Barbera Minto - a great insight into how we need to organise our messages so we can deliver them in a way that is easier for others to understand.

3. Be aware that people react differently to visual, aural and task-based ways of taking in information.  Try to relate to all of these in what you do and say.

4. Rehearse more than you think you need to.  I have spent a lot of time as a competitive brass band musician.  It's not unusual for us to spend 40 hours (or more) over the course or 3 or 4 weeks to prepare for one 15 minute performance.  I'm not saying that you need to rehearse that much but each time you do the two main elements of preparation (check you're on top of the material and experience delivering it) the easier it will become.

Oh and don't forget that it's natural to get nervous - it's a throwback to the caveman's "fight or flight" response. Use the nervous energy to focus your mind - even the toughest person in your audience is unlikely to actually kill you and eat you for dinner!

Mark and Mike have done some great podcasts on this - take their advice, have confidence in yourself as a newly-wise communicator and you'll be fine.

Peter