Communication is Everything
There are so many different things to focus on in your average work day that it's hard to stay on top of everything. Not everything is equal though and when it comes to your work, some things are definitely more important than others and deserve your attention. One of those things is communication.
Communication, whether it be verbal, interpersonal or over the phone, email or Instant Messaging is the only way that we interact with our colleagues, employees and customers, which essentially makes it the most important thing you do in your day. You might look at your job and think of yourself as an engineer, doctor, accountant or even a manager, but if you want to be really good at your job, what you should be is a communicator.
And what does the job of a communicator look like? It means that when people reach out to you, you respond. That doesn’t mean you do everything, it’s just not possible, but it does mean always letting them know that you’ve recognized what they’re saying and respond accordingly. And this applies to all forms of communication. So, if you get an IM from a colleague asking you a question, respond as soon as you can. It doesn’t have to be with their answer, but it should at least be to let them know that you received it and will get back to them. And if it's a client asking a question, make it even more of a priority and ensure you stick to your commitment to getting back to them. After all, customers will remember you not for your product, but by how you communicate with them.
You might be rolling your eyes right now and thinking that you sometimes are just simply too busy to respond to everything or don’t have time, but I would argue that proper communication actually makes you more productive. It’s often our lack of communication which gets us behind our tasks or into tight deadlines. If we communicated more regularly and more accurately, these challenges could likely have been avoided. Another way that communication helps with your productivity is that it forces you to be aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. It’s difficult to talk about something that you know little about or discuss the status of your work with your boss or a customer if you haven’t made much progress. It won’t make you magically more efficient in getting things done, but the more you communicate with your relevant stakeholders even if you haven’t made progress, they are more likely to trust that you are on top of it rather than have forgotten about it. You’ll be amazed at how much more effective you will be at work when you are on top of your communication.
And I’ve seen communication work for me in my own career as well. Much like how I spoke about increasing your sphere of influence, efficient communication makes people take notice of what you do. I don’t believe I’m any better than most people I’ve worked with, but what I have ensured I do is communicate in the various forms to those around me and do it well and often. I never needed to be a better software engineer, I just needed to be on top of my communication game and it helped those around me to take notice and it helped me to better meet the needs of the client as a result.
So, if you’re thinking of the next big skill set to develop in your career and you haven’t made an effort to improve your communication, then perhaps you just found the answer you needed. You may think your skillset is your most important asset, but it’s the way you communicate which will make all the difference.