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Truth 5 Help Others Help Themselves

Very early on in my career I did a presentation for some senior executives at a company I consulted for. In this presentation I did just about everything wrong. My slides had way too many words on them. I read the slides to the audience. I faced the screen too much instead of facing the audience. I didn't practice enough and confused even myself at one point. I mumbled instead of pronouncing my words clearly. In short, I was a disaster, and the client confirmed my poor performance by not awarding us the work.

If you're a good communicator, share your techniques, tools, and tips with your colleagues.

After the presentation, my manager sat me down and gave me some very thoughtful, direct feedback on all the things I did wrong. I'd always admired his smooth, easygoing communication style and was very willing to listen. He offered some examples of presentations he had done and also left the door open for me to seek his advice and counsel on my communication style. His willingness to help me with my communication style affected me tremendously and imprinted upon me a desire to help my colleagues be more effective communicators.

Before I go any further, I want to reveal a basic philosophy I think is important about working with people. I want others to help me be better, and I want to help others be better. Through the years, this desire has at times been beneficial to me and my colleagues, and at other times it has gotten me into hot water because I didn't approach the situation appropriately. Having said that, I'd rather offer help to a colleague and let him or her choose to either take it or leave it as opposed to not offering help at all.

How do you go about helping your colleague be a better communicator? Consider using a few techniques:

  • Set the example. In setting the example, you establish credibility with your colleague by demonstrating good communication skills through real-life experiences. Formal presentations, meeting facilitation, and written reports are great means by which you can help set an example and gain credibility as someone who can get his or her point across effectively. By setting the example, you teach through in-the-moment, real-time learning versus a more theoretical lab setting.
  • Openly share templates. Do you have a great presentation format that has been effective in communicating with senior management? Or do you have an outstanding status reporting template that concisely shows a project's status? Freely make those templates available to others so that they can benefit from your work and maybe improve on your ideas.
  • Make yourself available and open for advice and open to feedback. Some colleagues may want to leverage your experience in work that they are doing and seek your help in making their work product better. Extending an open hand to colleagues by offering to sit down with them and help them better get their point across through their work product is an outstanding means to improving an organization's overall effectiveness. They not only get to benefit from good examples, templates, and tools, but they also get some consulting on their specific work product. Obviously, you need to control how much of this you do and ensure that it doesn't negatively impact your primary job responsibilities. However, I do believe that it is important in any work setting to help others learn and improve. The higher you are in an organization, the more important it is to help those coming up the ranks with you learn and improve. It's a worthwhile investment that pays huge dividends if done well.

What if you've got a colleague who needs help but is unwilling to accept it? Well, it's not your responsibility to take on a communications crusade and enforce change on unwilling participants. If the person doesn't want help, don't force it. Do continue, though, to set an example and offer useful templates and tools.

If you're a good communicator, share your techniques, tools, and tips with your colleagues. Not only will you help your colleague, but he or she may make take what you've offered and make it even better. Then your colleague will be sharing his or her knowledge with you. How cool is that?

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