Wednesday, March 1, 2023

9 Communication Risks That Jeopardize Your Business

poor-office-communicationEvery business communication you initiate, both internal and external, involves some risk to your credibility, has legal implications, and may impact your relationship with peers. Most of these risks are rational and reasonable, but in my role as business consultant, I still see many experienced professionals and leaders initiating high-risk communications which come back to haunt them.

Others take the opposite strategy of no communication, or only responding to someone else’s initiative, to minimize risk, and find this approach does nothing for their career or the business. I have found that you get nowhere without taking some risk, but being brazen and ignoring high risk situations also is not very smart or productive.

Finding that balance has never been easy for me in my career, so I was pleased to see some good practical guidelines on how to communicate aggressively, but avoid the most common pitfalls, in a new book, “Communicate With Courage,” by Michelle Gladieux. She is a long-time executive coach who has helped thousands of clients overcome fears about communication.

I will paraphrase here my selection of her key recommendations to reduce your risk, with my own insights added, and I recommend that you adopt these as a starting point for all your communication initiatives:

  1. Don’t engage with manipulative or unethical people. Remove yourself or set rules if you choose to or have to communicate with someone who reveals themselves to be duplicitous. These people will likely be damaging to your health and spirit, and don’t deserve your accommodation, compromise, or collaboration. Avoid such relationships.

  2. Don’t risk setting unachievably high standards. Perfection in an unattainable goal, and a sure route to burnout. Unforeseen challenges in business usually prevent things from going exactly as you visualize, so be gentle with yourself and others. Don’t keep score about your wins and losses when it comes to getting outside your comfort zone.

  3. Letting others define you leaves you at high risk. Letting others define you is an easy cop-out to fall into. If you concern yourself too much with what others think of you and follow their direction, it will likely be impossible to be totally satisfied with who you are inside. Especially in business, I believe your legacy needs to be more than monetary.

  4. Never avoid constructive or negative feedback. Underestimating feedback limits your growth as a communicator and as a human. It may be delivered gracefully or without respect for your feelings. Always seek that kernel of truth that you cannot deny, leaving you better and stronger for having heard it, and act on it. Don’ risk losing the learning.

  5. Don’t stay in an adverse employment situation. If your attempts to improve the culture where you work or volunteer don’t yield any movement toward wellness, take the steps to get out of there before you succumb to burnout or compromise. Use job search tools to seek openings, line up references, and use trustworthy people to find other employment.

  6. Stay quiet when you’re too angry to see clearly. Better to vent accusations and insults on paper and then burn the results rather than draft an email and accidentally or intentionally hit “send.” Use the quiet time to observe and meditate on what bothers you most about messages from others, and determine to never follow that lead in your own.

  7. Don’t try to be funny when you might be insulting. Negativity and criticism resonate deeply and longer with message recipients that praise likely ever will. Consider whether or not your humor is welcome or just a defense or rebuttal to workplace harassment. Always test your response by first putting yourself on the other side of the equation.

  8. Don’t assume people know how you feel about them. Drop a quick line via electronic mail or text to standout people in your business on a regular basis to share your gratitude for their support or special project. The longer they wait for you to acknowledge their value, the higher the risk for you in getting their support or change the next time you ask.

  9. Don’t allow any misuse of confidential information. Business peers must feel that they can trust you with any sensitive information, business or private. Like complaining, leaking a secret has a certain natural high to it, until the thrill is gone and you’re left with the negative impact on your reputation as a communicator. Don’t share confidences.

With these constraints and considerations, I assure you that aggressively initiating relationships and communication will lead to more leadership and growth to both your business and your career, than being reserved and consistently taking the safe road. With this guidance, I suggest you now review your own position internally, as well as through the feedback of a trusted mentor.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 2/15/2023 ***



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