Of course a proper conversation should involve an equal amount of listening to speaking and many people are actually not good listeners. This can be coached and most managersshould consider attending such a course at some time to improve that part of their skill set.
If you think of relationships between colleagues a manager must establish himself/herself asAvailable to listen and especially to bad news your direct reports should not be afraid torelay bad news or indeed critique your advice if the team is to flourish and develop.
Business growth is built on partnerships with customers at one level or another and goodcommunication must be at the heart of the relationship be that B2B or end-users. Yourdistributors need constant reassurance and guidance (particularly at the start of thepartnership) and you need to be fully informed of the “road ahead” to avoid surprises. If youAre selling to end-users, then you must be seen to be available for feedback and to provideAssistance at all times. The ability to do this hasincreased exponentially with the arrival of social mediaplatforms and leading companies are already fully usingthe potential to maintain an open conversation with customers that can influence all aspects of the businessfrom R&D to repeat sales and marketing.
There are somedangers though which I will deal with shortly. The best form of communication is undoubtedly face-to-face conversation because up to 90 per cent of the message is transmitted non-verbally through body language, tone etc. Therefore, when we choose to communicate remotely we are taking a risk that part of ourintended message will not be understood correctly. It used to be the case that the defaultremote method was to telephone but today it seems that people avoid to call contactspreferring often to email or text. This seems especially true if it is bad news that needs tobe conveyed.
A written message particularly in brief format such as an email will inevitably be interpretedfrom the point of view of the reader. The tone of the message will be superimposed by thereader in-line with their preconceived opinions about the writer or the topic which often willbe far from reality. This can lead to breakdowns in negotiations or a hardening of positionsin dispute resolution.
I would always counsel people to meet or at least telephone whendealing with such tricky scenarios. Often complicated issues require written documents butthe sending of such materials must always be followed up quickly with a call or ideally ameeting to ensure proper understanding of your position. Negotiation and dispute resolution both require complete understanding of both parties points of view and this demands a strong element of listening. Success will be achieved when both sides feel they gained concessions win: win. And finally, where a written response is required it is advisable to avoid immediately sending the email or textespecially if the topic is contentious. Walk away and come back to it at a later time to rereadit.