The Magazine of American Municipal Power, Inc. and its Member Communities

Safeside

The Importance of Effective Communication

3 min read

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January 2023

By Kyle Weygandt, Director of Member Safety

No matter your profession or industry, effective communication is vital for success. Effective communication builds trust, provides clarity, increases productivity, promotes teamwork and more. Effective communication also makes for a safer work environment.

When considering whether your team is practicing effective communication, consider two things: how we receive messages and how we convey them.

How we receive messages

Listening - communicationWhile listening may seem like something that occurs naturally, this isn’t entirely true. Passive listening is something that we do without thinking. We hear the sounds that are being produced, but not necessarily the message that is being conveyed. This is not an effective way to process communication.

To ensure effective communication, we must practice active listening. This is the act of preparing to listen to and observe communication in order to properly process the message that is being conveyed. This includes observing what verbal and non-verbal messages are being sent, and then providing appropriate feedback in order to confirm that the message has been properly received. By actively listening, we hear the sounds that are being produced and the message that is being conveyed.

Active listening is not innate, but rather a skill that we develop and hone over time. At work, we must approach the development of active listening as a team activity as well as a safety necessity. Ensuring that no one walks away from a meeting confused and encouraging follow-up questions is vital to a successful safety-first culture.

It is also important that we take these same traits of passive and active listening and apply them to other areas of our communications. Ask yourself, did you truly understand the email you just read? Do you have follow-up questions that you are uncomfortable to ask?

How we convey messages

How we convey or deliver messages is just as important as how we receive them.

Speaking - communicationHave you ever felt like you weren’t heard during a presentation or that the direction you provided on a project was completely ignored? While there are many possible reasons for why your communication efforts failed, one of the most likely culprits is that you are not effectively communicating.

If your team is practicing active listening, they are prepared to process your message. From there, it is your responsibility to ensure that you effectively make use of their undivided attention. The best way to do so is by implementing the five Cs of effective communication.

  1. Be clear — Clarity is essential for understanding. If your message is unclear, you will confuse your audience, which can potentially result in mistakes or accidents. According to a study by Wrike, a work management company, 46 percent of people leave meetings without a clear understanding of what to do next. This is unacceptably low, especially when the safety of employees is at risk.
  2. Be concise — Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address consisted of only 272 words and lasted less than three minutes. The longer we speak or the more we type, the more likely it becomes that our audience loses interest. If you bury an important safety task in a 10-minute monologue, don’t be surprised when confusion ensues and the probability of an accident increases.
  3. Be confident — We instinctually look for a strong presence in our leaders. If you are not confident in the message you are delivering, why should anyone else be? Go over your message before addressing your audience and be prepared for any questions that might occur.
  4. Be credible — Credibility in communication correlates directly to another essential aspect of influence: trust. Trust is the currency by which you do business. If you are speaking to employees about the importance of a safety measure that you don’t follow yourself, can you really be surprised when they don’t trust the message you are trying to convey?
  5. Be compelling — In order to motivate or persuade an audience, you must compel them to not only listen to you, but also do something as a result of hearing your message. Use hooks in your messages and consider your body language and melody when speaking. If you tell a compelling and memorable story about hard hat safety, your crew is more likely to put on their hard hat moving forward.

Effective communication is an important skill in a safety-first workplace. It’s beneficial not only in the workplace but in every area of your life. Whether you are speaking or typing, reading or listening, leave no doubt in the message being conveyed.

If you have questions about how to effectively communicate on the topic of safety, please contact me at [email protected].