Ever left a meeting unsure of what to do next? What about spending hours on a draft only to find out the direction changed a week ago? 

So, why is communication important? Well, it's one of the first things we learn growing up (we even have degrees in Communication) and still proves to be one of the toughest skills to refine. Yet, it's undeniably essential to leadership and managing a successful team.

A leader who can't set expectations will have a team in chaos. Deadlines will be missed. Arguments will arise over who did what or who was supposed to do it. Countless meetings are held to combat this communication failure, but they just end up wasting everyone's time.

Not to worry. We have some effective communication tips to keep in mind next time you're providing feedback or thinking about scheduling that meeting. You'll learn how to improve communication skills in the workplace and out.

1. There's too much talking

We use several tools and tactics used everyday to make communication as straightforward as possible. In addition, we also schedule meetings on top of meetings to express our work, ideas, and goals.

But are all of these initiatives to enforce effective communication working? According to our Work Management Survey, more than a quarter of employees attend 6 or more meetings a week. However, only 46% say they leave a meeting with a clear understanding of what to do next.

So what are we doing wrong? Too much talking, not enough listening.

Good anthropologists show up to a scene and simply gather feedback. Instead of feeling like they have something to prove, they ask questions and listen carefully to the responses. But it isn't like that in most meetings.

There's always a person or two who dominate a meeting as they fight for their ideas to be heard. Sharing is encouraged in these meetings. But when the rest of the room can't get a word in edgewise or feel no one will listen to them, you have a problem.

Try this: Think to yourself, What would an anthropologist do? At your next meeting, focus on creating a dialogue versus a monologue. At the beginning of the meeting, give yourself three minutes (time yourself if you have to) to talk about the purpose of the meeting and any thoughts you had upfront. After the three minutes are up, open the floor up to everyone else and just listen. This will allow the attendees to feel like their ideas are valued and will allow you to practice listening rather than thinking of what to say next.

2. It's too fragmented

So you've drafted a report that should be ready for design by the end of the week. You email it to all the key stakeholders plus a few others whose input you need. One by one, you start receiving the feedback.

Some of the feedback is spread across different versions of your shared document. Some of it within the email thread. One person comes up to you in the office and tells you what they would like to see changed.

You begin to receive some more feedback via IM and phone calls. The end of the week approaches, and instead of sending your report to design, you're organizing your feedback. Sound familiar?

With so many different communication types and means of communication, it can be a full-time job just organizing the feedback, incorporating everyone's thoughts and ideas. It's nearly impossible to get concise and actionable feedback from stakeholders without a single place to house all feedback for a particular project.

Try this: Invest in a tool that allows you to funnel all communication relevant to a specific project in a single, accessible location. This single source of truth will be a saving grace when it comes to gathering and implementing ideas and feedback. In the end, it will save you a ton of time previously spent organizing and piecing it all together.

Keep all your communications in one place. Start a Wrike free trial

3. There's an ulterior motive

Ever been in a meeting where you feel people are speaking out for their own benefit and not the company's? Or experienced conflict with an employee and intentionally stopped collaborating with them?

This is a product of letting something negatively influence the way you communicate. At the end of the day, you're all ultimately working towards the same goal and need to work together. Fostering a place of collaboration where everyone is supported and feels they have a voice is imperative to good communication.

According to Dan Scalco, Founder and Director of marketing at Digitalux, "Don’t hold your status over other people or use coercion or fear as motivators. Instead, focus on bringing an honest, positive and ego-less attitude to every situation that arises. Serving as a cheerleader instead of an autocrat helps maintain morale and can even facilitate creativity and effective problem solving."

Try this: At the beginning of a project or a meeting, write down the most high-level objectives. Whenever you host a meeting and conflict breaks out or there is conflicting feedback on a project that's getting out of hand, look back at your high-level objectives and ask yourself, Is this helping us reach our goals? This will allow you to take a step back and evaluate what's actually constructive and what needs to be dealt with.

4. There's no trust

Failing to meet deadlines or falling through on a promise can erode your team's trust in you. If you're someone who over-promises and under-delivers, your team can't rely on you. Even if you feel you do the opposite and under-promise and over-deliver, you're still not being honest and it's damaging communication across your team.

"Nothing will make people tune out faster than smelling BS," says Karin Hurt, Author and Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders. "If you want people to truly listen, be sure they can believe what you say. A culture of real communication can only happen when people can count on one another for candor. Encourage transparency and truth telling, starting at the very top.

Try this: Be honest — it's as simple as that. Share details if you know them, say you don't if you don't. Host regular one-on-ones when it's necessary and always be as transparent as possible in those meetings. Your team will appreciate your candor and honesty, and reward you with trust and hard work.

For further reading on how to improve communication skills:

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