Communication Goals for the New Year

Of all the goals you set for yourself, one of the most important ones is probably not on your list -- communication goals. As important as communication is, most people overlook this as a critical goal.

It's impossible to be too good a communicator. We all know people who seem to always know the perfect thing to say. What you may not realize is that good communicators work at it -- it doesn't always come naturally to them. They make a conscious effort to think before they speak.

Nothing gets done in this world without communication. If you want your relationships to improve and you want to be more effective in the things that you do, make it a goal of yours to hone your communications skills.

Communication goals to consider:

Addressing an issue -- If you have been harboring bad feelings towards someone, this may be manifesting itself in comments and actions that are undermining your relationship. As awkward as it may be to bring something up, most people appreciate when someone takes the time and effort to try and improve a situation. The sooner you get this conversation behind you the better you'll both feel. Moving forward, make it a point not to let bad feelings fester. If you are having trouble with someone, address it right away. Let them know how you feel -- not what they did wrong. Importantly, offer a solution and be open to listening to what they see as an alternative. Your goal should be to address the situation in a positive way without being attached to an outcome.

Being honest not hurtful -- A management consultant was pitching a potential client and lost the business. He called the two decision makers to find out why. One called and left a message saying that, "The other firm was more professional." Ouch. The consultant felt rejected and insulted. Later that day, the other decision maker called and said, "The reason we chose the other firm was that they gave us more specifics on how they would handle the project." Both decision makers were being honest, however the second one didn't make it personal. They pointed out the specific reason which, if the person addresses, can be rectified in future presentations. Being honest is a good quality but being "brutally honest" is not necessary or effective. When you have to provide critical feedback, couch it in language that enables the receiver to learn from it in a positive way. Strive to make it about the "thing" and not the person.

Inspiring and Motivating -- Try to inspire people to want to do their best. Let your passion show and be specific around the mission. Focus on what the opportunity means to your team or peers: a promotion, more money, a chance to create something, greater responsibilities, etc. Look for every opportunity to be inspiring. Don't wait for a "kick off" meeting or the end of the quarter. There are countless, informal opportunities to let someone know how excited you are about what you're all working towards.

Keeping in touch -- This is always on everyone's "wish list" but they seldom make it a priority. Make it a point this month to schedule emails and phone calls so you can stay connected on a regular basis. Identify the people you want to stay in touch with and the frequency of contact that feels right to you. Schedule your emails over the course of the year. Sending an email only takes a few minutes and if you follow this approach, you'll stay connected.

Speaking up in meetings -- Like someone once said, "If everyone waited to say something brilliant in a meeting, no one would say anything." The purpose of a meeting is to share ideas. If you're in the room, no matter what your position is, you're there for a reason. To break the ice, jump in at the beginning of the meeting. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but after a while you'll just be part of the conversation. Look at the agenda beforehand to help organize your thoughts. If speaking up in meetings is one of your goals, start with the first meeting of 2012. If you suddenly start contributing, people will take notice. Don't be afraid to let them know it's one of your goals.

Congratulating -- Never miss an opportunity to congratulate someone. Most people reserve congratulations for major events and miss the many chances to acknowledge achievements on a smaller scale. If someone completed a project that had been languishing, congratulate them. Saying congratulations doesn't necessarily have to be tied to an event. For example, if there's a department in your organization that shines, congratulate that manager for having a great team. People love to receive accolades and will feel better about themselves and you.

Listening -- We all know how frustrating it is when we're speaking to someone and they zone out. Half listening is not listening. If someone approaches you and you're too busy to listen, let them know there's a better time for you to have the conversation. Otherwise, give people your undivided attention and don't be quick to interrupt if you don't agree with something they've said. Resist the impulse to jump in. By listening you're respecting what they have to say and who they are. It also keeps the door open for future conversations. If they know you're going to shoot down their idea right away, why should they try again?

Communication is the most powerful tool we have available. It has the ability to inspire and energize people to achieve things that they would otherwise think impossible. Make it your goal this year to sharpen your communication skills and you'll see the benefits.

"The greatest communication skill is paying value to others."
Denis Waitley