This third instalment in the Business Excellence series focuses on communication; a topic which combines a multitude of skills. Communication links seamlessly with earlier blogs on networking and influencing, and as such, your success in business will be determined by the effectiveness of your communication skills. 

What is communication? 

We communicate each time information is transferred to or from others. This can be achieved by speaking or writing of course, but it can also be perceived via body language and visual imagery. 

In the learning and development sector we employ a vast range of dynamic and engaging approaches to enable impactful communication. For example, group role-plays and team games promote trust and inclusion. Videos and podcasts, on the other hand, support more polished and targeted messaging. 

We communicate at all points throughout the learning and development cycle. We liaise with subject matter experts and stakeholders to gain vital clarifications and approvals, as well as internal and external project teams to hit targets. 

A surprising number of people in business today still feel that the key to excellent communication is simply getting your message across, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about positioning messages in a way that influences your audience by interpreting emotions and identifying the intentions behind a message to build a complete picture. 

So, what are the key ingredients for success? 

The value of listening 

Knowing how to listen effectively and communicate well will boost what you learn from others and transform how you express yourself. You may have heard the term ‘active listening’. Active listening is a vital component, not only to be fully informed but also to respect others. This means demonstrating your attention and understanding by fully immersing yourself in a conversation and using verbal and non-verbal cues to determine the true message.  


Mutual respect is critical in honest communication. We’ve all experienced communication barriers that are borne out of tension and unease, so it’s important to try to manage our emotions when communicating. The significance of clear and respectful communication, particularly from a remote perspective, is illustrated in a well-documented radio transcript between two seafarers. 

The captain of a powerful naval ship aims to avoid a collision by urging a nearby ocean goer to give way to their daunting vessel. On being informed that this isn’t possible, the radio conversation escalates. 

With the naval captain rushing to assert their authority, and the responder struggling to get a word in, things become heated. The stand-off ends with the warship diverting course urgently, having (eventually) learned that they’re communicating with a lighthouse.  

The story illustrates that clarity of information is key to communicating successfully. You’ll get the right information by asking the right questions, actively listening and respecting others. Effective communication is a key ingredient in trust-building, which influences valuable action and change in people and business. 

The wider benefits 

Communication done well increases productivity whilst minimising risks that arise through miscommunication. Without clarity, vital information can easily be misinterpreted, impacting relationships and ultimately, raising barriers. 

Aside from emotional stress, common communication barriers include a lack of true attention and conflicting body language. Non-verbal communication should always mirror words and tone and when these don’t align, this can negatively impact the perception of your authenticity. 

Communicating also means being proactive. For example, don’t wait for feedback – ask for it. In the learning and development sector we work with subject matter experts to ensure the accuracy and validity of content we are producing. In some cases, without clear and comprehensive feedback, we wouldn’t be able to confidently complete a project. So never be afraid to follow up on communications, because often this will put you in control. To borrow American comedian Jonathan Winters’ quote: ‘If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it’. Surprisingly few people do this, perhaps out of a concern for what they’ll find. 

Let’s assume you receive feedback. Now consider how you might react to it if it’s challenging? How do you react to information that you’re not comfortable with? Keep your emotions in check and don’t rush to respond. Be open-minded, constructive and always accept feedback and advice with gratitude.  

Be confident and optimistic 

We’ve clarified that effective communication requires a diverse range of skills spanning both verbal and non-verbal, as well as active listening. However, there’s still more to being an excellent communicator. As with networking and influencing, it ultimately comes down to you and the way others perceive you. 

For example, people tend to be more responsive to positivity. So being confident, enthusiastic and using your smile – whether it’s face-to-face or over the phone – will make a notable difference to the atmosphere of the conversation. In face-to-face settings it’s useful to maintain eye contact to illustrate that your attention is undivided. 

You can also use storytelling to bring your messages to life. People will usually be more receptive to information when it’s relatable. Storytelling engages others by focusing and empowering them to see a set of facts from a shared perspective. 

Check for clarity 

Finally, ensure that your communication is successful. Understand what is being conveyed to you and make sure your messages are understood by others. If you’re unsure, ask and your spirit for clarity will be respected. 

Consider this scenario. An office worker heading out to the local supermarket is stopped by a colleague. Handing over some cash, the colleague asks: “Please could you grab a large carton of milk. If they have donuts, get six.” 

A short time later the worker returns with six cartons of milk. His colleague asks, “Why on earth did you buy six cartons of milk?” He replied, “They had donuts”. 

As George Bernard Shaw wisely said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 

The next topic in our Business Excellence Series is Stakeholder Management; a skill where, once again, communication plays a pivotal role. Follow us on LinkedIn for the latest updates on new blog content and to learn more about RTS Group, our clients and behind the scenes of our busy digital agency.  

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