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Business Bites: Effective Communication in the Workplace

Updated: Jun 2

The Randal Osché Podcast: Business Bites | Episode 1

In this episode, co-host Chris Taplin and Randall explore the importance of effective communication in professional settings. Chris joins me by drawing from his background in the software industry and startups, particularly advising companies in pre-sales and solution consulting. Randall contributes from his experiences in banking, finance, wealth management, and startups.

Together, they unpack how effective communication is the linchpin for aligning organizational goals, enhancing decision-making processes, and fostering a culture of productivity. We'll share practical techniques for active listening and strategies for honing both verbal and written communication skills, drawing inspiration from Chris Voss's acclaimed book Never Split the Difference.

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastPodcast Index, Podcasts AddictAmazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform.


Chris Quotes:

 "First thoughts are that every company I've ever worked at, people say communication could be better here... it's a continual effort to be better at communicating."

"I ended up being a manager and 96 people suddenly reporting to me... I realized how many different ways people could misunderstand things."

"Effective communication helps the organization massively because you need them to make decisions in the general strategy and direction that you would do if you were there."
"The guiding principles that a strategy gives you help you make those decisions, focus all of your efforts in that direction and test any other distractions as easy to drive in the strategy."
"Being brief and bold and simple in emails; people don't have time to read a long email."

Randall Osché Quotes:

"I think the importance of communication in an organization cannot be overstated. It's the lifeblood of a functional workplace and directly impacts every aspect of business operations."
"We don't necessarily care how you do it, here are some parameters: you got to follow the laws and policies... but this is ultimately where we want to get to. We want to increase revenue, we want to decrease expenses."
"It's important to give your full attention. If you're talking to a colleague or a prospective client, don't be on your phone, don't be checking email."
"I think active listening is a big one, whether you're working with a colleague or you're working with a client."
"And I think that's a much more effective way to move forward as an organization because everybody knows what you're trying to achieve."

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments!

And that's it for today's conversation here on the Randall Osché podcast. Thank you so much for joining us and we hope that you've enjoyed listening as much as we've enjoyed recording it.

Many many thanks to our guests today for sharing their knowledge, their experience and their life lessons. If you found today's conversation insightful, interesting, inspiring, please join our growing community by subscribing. Randall Osché podcast on your favorite podcast platform, and never ever miss another episode.

 We'd love to hear your feedback. So keep the community alive by sharing your takeaways from today's episode and use the hashtag Randall O'Shea podcast. Your feedback and interaction fuels our continued efforts to build a safe space for meaningful, long form conversations. So thank you so much for the support until next time, stay curious, stay inspired and keep the conversation going.

Business Bites Episode 1

[00:00:00] Randall: Chris Taplin, welcome to the show. I think that we're going to call these episodes business bites. I think the name is still a work in progress, maybe business bites with Randall and Chris. But for those of our listeners who don't know who you are, Chris, why don't you go ahead and give a short introduction.

[00:00:15] Chris: Thanks, Randall. 

[00:00:16] Chris: Yep, Chris Taplin. I live in the UK but I've worked for, mainly in the software industry for a little brief manufacturing, but for some of the names like SAP and Adobe and Oracle that there's maybe not heard of. Startups, pre IPOs. Big global things. And I've gone independent in the last year and helped be advising companies and how to get the best they can out of their teams that are in the space called pre sales or solution consulting.

[00:00:42] Randall: It's got various different names. Yeah, Randall O'Shea here. I live in the United States. I live in Florida. I love the weather here. I spent most of my career in banking, finance and wealth management. And a couple of years ago, I transitioned to starting to work for tech companies, startups specifically.

[00:01:01] Randall: And I guess now I'm a podcaster or maybe a part time hobbyist podcaster. But Chris and I, I think our collective hope here is to bring you a weekly episode where we talk about a specific business topic and sort of deconstruct how to be effective and efficient with whatever we're discussing.

[00:01:21] Randall: Right. So this week, one of the first things that we wanted to discuss was effective communication in the workplace. 

[00:01:27] Randall: So we'll dive into that. When you hear somebody say effective work, What does that mean to you?

[00:01:32] Randall: What are your first thoughts? 

[00:01:33] Chris: First thoughts are that every company I've ever worked at people say communication could be better here. And so it's obviously a continual effort to be better at communicating. I certainly would associate with a good culture. And I just mean that you are able to provide an environment where most of the organization understands the strategy and they're sort of aligned with the goals of the organization and that there is a focus really on clear communication, be it verbal, non verbal, written, in the form of emails, the presentation decks everything is thought about.

[00:02:11] Randall: What do you think the importance of that is right? So we know communication is important. We know communicating effectively is important, but maybe we look at it from two aspects of why is poor communication bad for an organization? And then how can good communication up level an organization.

[00:02:29] Chris: Yeah, I suppose the why first bit is the story here. Really? I was a leader of a team that I knew really well. I've been the peer of theirs and I became their manager. And we all got on very well. I think we all understood each other very well. And then during a period of big reorganization, I ended up being a manager and 96 people suddenly reporting to me. 

[00:02:49] Chris: And then I realized how many different ways people could misunderstand things that I said because they didn't know me so well, and they were hearing the message and interpreting it. I mean, the 96 different ways I almost felt. And then the problem I also had was, I was talking to eight managers and those managers could put their spin on it before it went down to the rest of the team.

[00:03:13] Chris: Soeffective communication, helps the organization massively. Because, you know, you're in a situation where you can't be in every meeting with people. You need them to make decisions in the general strategy, in the general direction that you would do if you were there. You can't be.

[00:03:28] Chris: And so the company will grind to a halt, I'd saywith poor communication. So, yeah, the flip side, I suppose, for the rest of it you've got an opportunity for good decision making at source in front of clients in all the meeting rooms that are going on because everybody's on message and that message has been communicated in sufficient way that people have understood it.

[00:03:51] Chris: In all the different ways you have to communicate to make someone understand something and their own message. That's probably the best way I'd say it. 

[00:03:57] Randall: You mentioned strategy a few times? I mean, I've worked at many organizations, but I've worked at some organizations that were better at communicating what the strategy is like, these are the outcomes that we want to produce.

[00:04:08] Randall: We don't necessarily care how you do it. Here are some parameters, right? You got to follow the laws and policies and procedures and regulations, depending on what industry you're in. But this is ultimately where we want to get to. We want to increase revenue. We want to decrease expenses.

[00:04:22] Randall: We want to grow our customer base and that sort of broadly speaking, but that's the strategy. Some organizations I've been a part of have done a very poor job of communicating with that overall strategy was like they, you know, kept it. Like the senior leaders might have known that, but they didn't do a good job of pushing that down.

[00:04:41] Randall: Nor, the thought process might've been that they thought it wasn't necessary to pushthat strategy down, right? The people at the bottom of the org, I think the decision was made that they don't need to know that. They just need to do their job. I would disagree with that. Then I've worked in other organizations that have been more than open to share what the objectives are, what the strategies are.

[00:05:01] Randall: And I think that's a much more effective way to move forward as an organization because everybody knows what you're trying to achieve. So yes, there might be poor communication sometimes. The messaging might not be clear, but if everybody knows where the destination is, everybody knows what we're trying to accomplish at the end of the day, they can make decisions themselves that align with that overall mission.

[00:05:24] Randall: So I thinkif you're going to, be ineffective communicators about everything else, make sure that at least you're getting the one thing right and the one thing right should be what the strategy is. Because if everybody knows what the strategy is, everybody knows what the mission is.

[00:05:38] Randall: They can make their own decisions. And hopefully more of those are the right decisions that move themselves in the organization forward and not steps back. And then as a leader, some of the decision made, maybe they weren't the right ones, but then that's where you can coach and influence and guide how they're going about their day.

[00:05:55] Randall: How they're going about their work. Have any thoughts on that, Chris? 

[00:05:58] Chris: Yeah. I think it just, can't put very soon. Especially because The other sort of definition of your problem setting could be the sort of JetBlazer kind of you can't use PowerPoint slides you've got to have sent a discussion document around everyone needs to be assumed to have not read it and then sit quietly in the meeting room while you read it and then you're only discussing and all those things that are communication.

[00:06:19] Chris: Also, I just think that I've worked in many companies where things have been moving very quickly. The company's been growing very quickly. It's the strategy element is what I was fixing on for communication because it was vitally important that everyone understood. The guiding principles that a strategy gives you to help you make those decisions focus all of your efforts in that direction and test any other distractions as easy to drive in the strategy.

[00:06:46] Chris: No, we'll stop doing it. So, you know, it's a principle you're applying to your every day. In your workplace to assist with the strategy. So that was much more important to me than to be worrying about whether you have to sit in a stand up meetings only, those are the aspects of communication.

[00:07:03] Randall: Got it. I think generally accepted principles about effective workplace communication, active listening, I think is a big one, whether you're working with a colleague or you're working with a client, I think active listening, we all can agree that that's important, but what is that?

[00:07:19] Randall: Right. So let's get into that for a moment. You know, so active listening techniques, what are some of maybe your favorite ones that have helped you communicate better. 

[00:07:29] Chris: Influenced by a book that I've been reading at the moment by a guy called Chris Voss, who's wrote Never Split the Difference. So, an FBI hostage negotiator, and then he talks about how to use the negotiation now.

[00:07:40] Chris: First of all, I mean, his technique is really to try and get people to be comfortable, but it's still applicable. The idea of paraphrasing, playing back what you've heard in your, language is a super important element to it. He also actually when you just repeat the last few words of each of the sentence the person has just said and just get them to give you more information, more information, obviously, there's a reason why he's asking that.

[00:08:02] Chris: But I also know that in effective communication, the first thing that people are saying is not necessarily really a root of what their problem is, or the actual most important thing that they're saying. So, it's the ability to really be able to show that you've interpreted it, playing it back.

[00:08:19] Chris: And also I think active listening is keeping quiet and then trying to get them to elicit more and more information with pauses or playing back the last few words they said. 

[00:08:29] Randall: Yeah, I think pauses is important. I think a lot of people. Are uncomfortable with silence. And then as soon as one person stops talking, it's like a nervous twitch, right?

[00:08:40] Randall: They feel they need to fill that space, but I've learned that if you don't fill the space, if you just let that breathe for a moment, that's where magic happens in conversations. So that would be a pointer that I would recommend is not all pauses, not all silence needs to be filled.

[00:08:58] Randall: Just give that a moment or two and then see what happens. And maybe for the listeners out there, try to like, that's an easy action step that you could probably implement today if you try to. So a couple of points that Chris made, and maybe I'll elaborate on a few of those, but I think it's important to give your full attention.

[00:09:14] Randall: If you're, again, talking to a colleague or a prospective client, existing client, don't be on your phone. Don't be checking email. Don't be responding to Slack messages. Give your full attention. Pay attention to nonverbal cues, right? So people not in agreement sometimes, when I'm on zoom calls, I put my arms up like, yes, great point.

[00:09:34] Randall: I think that's a good, great nonverbal cue. Like I'm engaged, I'm understanding. Maybe sometimes they get a little over passionate, right? Whatever paraphrase Chris said this too repeat back to them what they said, but use your own words that shows them that you're, you're listening. And I think ultimately you know, when you're having a conversation that you want that conversation to go somewhere, and if you want to get more information from a client, or if you want to get more information from a colleague, Reinforcing the idea that you are giving your full intention.

[00:10:05] Randall: And attention promotes that conversation to go further and get it to where you want it to be. Right. 

[00:10:11] Randall: Avoid interrupting. I'm bad at this. Some things I get very passionate about. And I'm like, I can't wait to say this thing because I think it's super important or it's going to make me look super smart.

[00:10:20] Randall: Right. You can interrupt. Obviously that's rude. Take a note, remember it, write it down. I'm an avid note taker. I think that that's important. Control your passion and excitement and enthusiasm. I have to work on that myself. And then, sometimes, it's a matter of, showing empathy.

[00:10:35] Randall: Probably Chris Voss talks about this because he is a FBI hostage negotiator. But how did that person that he's negotiating with get to where they are now, right? I'm sure it wasn't their first move to be a criminal. Understanding that and putting yourself in the other person's shoes that you're communicating with. I think that can also be, you know, quite powerful as well. 

[00:10:59] Randall: So, sort of talked about, you know, broadly so far understanding the strategy. So, there can be like that decentralized communication for people to make decisions on their own.

[00:11:09] Randall: Talked about, active listening techniques and why those are important. What about written communication, say like via email? Do you have any suggestions about how to effectively communicate via email? 

[00:11:21] Chris: It's an interesting one, actually, because I've been taught several different things during my time, obviously.

[00:11:28] Chris: Being brief and be bold and be simple. People don't have time to read a long email is where I've really come from. Some cultures though, I came across as very rudebecause I was, pretty sharp, just the point in and out. You'll notice some people email without putting hi, someone's name, thanks, such and such at the end, just the straight statement.

[00:11:50] Chris: And I had sort of feedback that I was, you know, in certain cultures just coming across really, really rude. I've recently as an independent consultant in pricing quite lengthy emails now. It summarizes that I've understood and listened to the meeting I've just had with a prospective client and that I've picked up on a lot of the facts that came out.

[00:12:11] Chris: And then I'm also trying to give some interpretation and some thoughts of what I've heard. Because I'm trying to establish myself as somebody who's important and useful and intelligent and so forth. So I've gone full circle, really. I've considered emails that might take me a couple of days to do because I am Trying to have an impact.

[00:12:32] Chris: I'm not working where I'm just pinging out emails to people who work for me and it doesn't matter so much.

[00:12:39] Chris: So, yeah, I think normal cases be brief. But if you're showing some intelligence, maybe you have a lasting effect on somebody. 

[00:12:47] Randall: I think it's excellent advice. And one of the things I think that we talked about in verbal communication and email as well as is paraphrasing is repeat back to them what you might have heard.

[00:12:57] Randall: But this time you're writing that. And the idea is like, Hey, I was listening. This is what you said. This is how I interpret it. And I'm playing that back to you, but said it's an email. I would say it's important, like, you know, different cultures. You had mentioned have a different standard or expectation.

[00:13:14] Randall: So I think overall, whether communicating verbally or written, know your audience and also know your objective. What do you want to get out of this conversation? What do you want to get out of this email? And then you can write or verbally communicate to that end, right? You know what you want to accomplish.

[00:13:32] Randall: I also think it's again, you have to know your audience, but I think people misconstrue and confuse that you can be direct, but you can be friendly. One of the ways you can be friendly is by starting all the emails with, Hey, hi, hello. Good morning. Good afternoon.

[00:13:48] Randall: Good evening. I think that that goes a long way as well. Right? 

[00:13:52] Chris: Basically teach myself to stop doing that after the complaints came back and come on. Yeah, it's just I don't know what it was. It was what we think. You know, forget the point I was gonna make right? A bit of a meeting.

[00:14:02] Chris: It's much more akin to a tease message than it is an email. 

[00:14:05] Randall: I think that's important too a good point about different people have different expectations. But for me, my text messages look different than my emails, right? My slack messages look different than my email. So I think at least that's my perspective.

[00:14:19] Randall: Don't send me a slack if it should have been an email, right? That's my opinion. But I think, this was all good information. I learned a few things from Chris and his experiences. I hope our listeners out there were able topick a few helpful, points out of our discussion today.

[00:14:35] Randall: But before we wrap up thefirst episode of this business bites name, still a work in progress. Chris, you have any final thoughts, concerns, considerations you'd like to share? 

[00:14:44] Chris: Well, I feel you've just got to treat people how you wish to be treated. So in all forms of communication think of that, that point.

[00:14:51] Randall: Excellent. Thanks Chris. 

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