Last month, I turned 50 years old. To celebrate that milestone, I shared 10 lessons I’ve learned about communication, with a specific focus on what 25 years of work have taught me. This month, I’m sharing 10 more—including a few that will continue to demand my attention.
1. Meetings are incredibly flawed—but also incredibly important. Nearly everybody complains about meetings: the degree to which they waste time, encourage groupthink and lead to little—if any—real decisions. However, they remain a critical part of organizational communication. The key is making them more effective and efficient by following a few simple rules:
• Always start on time
• Always have an agenda, with time allotments for each item
• Be intentional with invitations; make sure everyone is there for a reason
• Ask someone to take notes and record action items
• End on time
2. Everyone, even the best presenter, is at least a little nervous at least some of the time. What matters most is what you do with it. Standing in front of an audience is an unnatural act, so our instincts tell us to hide in the back of the room where it’s safe. That means even the best presenters get nervous, at least occasionally. Great presenters acknowledge this and work through the fear to inspire themselves to prepare accordingly.
3. Leaders over-communicate what’s most important. A local CEO once said to me: “I know I’ve done my job when I’m talking about our mission or vision and my team can finish my sentence.” True leaders make the important stuff unmistakable by erring on the side of over-communicating.
4. Leaders have the courage to say the difficult things that need to be said. Another hallmark of a great leader is his or her ability to respectfully call attention to the things that hold their teams back. If you can say what needs to be said and maintain relationships along the way, there’s no limit to your ability to inspire people.
5. Listening is active, not passive. We’re in crisis when it comes to listening. We spend time together focused on our devices, not each other, and everyone is raising their voices trying to be heard. Part of the problem is that listening seems secondary—something done passively while someone else takes the lead. True strength, however, comes from the ability to be quiet, learn from others and share your thoughts only when they add something to the conversation. Start by thinking of listening as active and an equal contribution to the conversation.
6. Social media is both one of the best and worst things in our communication environment. Social media has turned up the volume in terms of how much information we’re expected to consume and how much everyone is shouting over each other. However, it’s also a tremendous tool for connecting people, learning and sharing perspectives. It’s neither inherently good nor bad. It’s a little of both.
7. Life shouldn’t be lived through a screen. We all need to avoid the temptation to focus our attention on our devices instead of each other. Your phone (as just one example) is a tool that should be used sparingly. Put it down, see the world and talk to people. Frequently.
8. Changing the communication environment begins with each one of us. We can only control ourselves, but setting an example for others to follow is a great start. We condition each other to what’s acceptable in our communication environment. Demand higher standards from others by holding yourself accountable to those same standards.
9. Please and thank you aren’t always necessary, but they rarely hurt. Common courtesy isn’t all that common. You know how we can change that? See above.
10. We all have room for improvement. Everything I’ve said here, and what I shared last month, applies equally as well to me. Because if I’ve learned anything in my 50 years on the planet, it’s that I have a lot more to learn.
One more thing I’ve learned is to be grateful when someone gives you their time and attention. So if you’ve read anything I’ve written, including this column, thank you. I look forward to continuing to share what I learn along the way, while listening to what others have to say so I can learn from them, too.
ANTHONY JULIANO is a marketing and social media strategist, teacher, trainer and writer. He is vice president of marketing and social media strategy at Asher Agency in Fort Wayne, and he teaches social media and marketing classes at Indiana Tech and Purdue University Fort Wayne. Connect with him at LinkedIn.com/in/anthonyjuliano or via email at email@example.com.