Of the top leadership competencies that any tradie manager (and even staff) should possess, effective communication skills are a must.
In fact, 3 in 4 employees consider it the most important leadership attribute. This is because business growth can depend on how productively one manages teams, vocalises expectations, and assigns tasks.
Sure, the end goal is simple—get things done on the dot. But various clients and collaborators may require a different style of communication than what you’re used to, and you’ll want to minimise complications. The better you adjust, the more seamless the process becomes.
This is just one benefit you reap from nurturing effective communication skills. Here’s how they can further enhance your working environment.
How Effective Communication Skills Improve Work Ethic
The tradie community requires steady collaboration between dozens of teams and contractors. To best streamline their processes, a leader must be adaptable—and a good talker. This can improve working relationships and boost employee morale.
It’s as simple as practising active listening. It allows you to make better optimal decisions and assures your team that they are as trusted as they are heard.
Active listening leads to clarity. This leaves little room for misunderstandings or, at the very least, make them far more resolvable. The better your team members have a grasp of their role, the more engaged they become with their work.
In fact, employees find themselves more engaged with a team leader who “fosters employees’ pride, self-esteem, and sense of belonging” and less motivated by compensation and benefits.
In short, the better you communicate, the more high-functioning and positive the work environment you foster.
Barriers to Effective Communication
As much as you’ll want to get your point across, being too impatient or aggressive can hinder your chances of ever doing so. Here are a few behaviours you’ll want to abandon when mastering the art of communication.
Every once in a while, you’ll encounter a difficult client. While this can be frustrating, you’ll want to avoid becoming critical of the way they communicate. Instead, foster a more productive environment by demonstrating that you can communicate better.
Ensure that you’re always paying attention—even and especially when you find yourself not wanting to.
Using Overly-Technical and Complicated Language
Incorporating advanced terminology and business jargon may establish an aura of professionalism. But when you’re speaking with a client, this becomes relevant only to those within your profession. Simple language does a simple message best.
Giving Unwanted Advice
“Knowing it all” may reinforce that you’re an expert at what you do, but isn’t relevant to a client with very specific needs. Stick to their concerns. After all, if they picked you out of a digital sea of hundreds, it’s likely they already know you’re an industry expert.
Communication Tips for Tradie Leaders
With all that in mind, here are a few vital steps you’ll want to take towards achieving effective communication skills as a tradie leader.
Know Your Client and Yourself
Valuable communication stems from a healthy amount of self-awareness. When you play to your strengths and acknowledge where you might need to improve, you make better conversation.
Knowing what you want to achieve from any given interaction before you have it can save a lot of time and effort. It’s much easier to tailor your conversations when you set goals according to what your clients have in mind. Still, becoming adaptable isn’t so much about doing everything a client asks for, but working towards the same goal in a more productive environment.
When you make personal connections, you establish empathy and build trust with your partners. That’ll ease your process in the long run. You can start by understanding your client’s specific communication needs—what motivates them, whether they are firm or meek, or how they bridge communication gaps.
Remember, getting the job done isn’t all about achieving the perfect build or striking out on a difficult task. It’s also a matter of facilitating a motivated and engaging consumer journey. Think: a happy customer makes for a returning customer.
Note Nonverbal Cues
The saying, “actions speak louder than words,” is only true 93% of the time. Despite the number of speeches we rehearse before a meeting, 93% of communication is nonverbal in nature.
This refers to facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, and eye contact, so you’ll want to pay attention. One’s responses tend to depend more on inflection rather than a word’s actual connotation. Your client may be humouring you verbally, but their crossed arms and fidgeting may tell an entirely different story.
Meetings can be awkward, so you’ll want to do everything to put your partners at ease. Adjust your body language to that of your client’s—if they’re looking a little restless, position yourself as warm and accepting.
It’s just as important to align your body language with your words. It helps communicate that you are genuine and encouraging.
Practice Active Listening
Part of becoming a better communicator is becoming a better listener. On average, people only retain 17 – 25% of what they hear during a conversation. When a discussion is more about waiting your turn to speak than making greater efforts to acknowledge where the opposite party is coming from, you’re more likely to assume, interrupt, and judge.
Really listening means zeroing in on your client’s words and responding with relevance. Consider why you are being given particular bits of information. If you’re not quite sure, ask follow-up questions or paraphrase what is communicated to you.
This will give you a better idea about whether you have the time and resources to handle certain demands, or how you might get ahead of any complications.
As a leader, you’ll hardly get the luxury of speaking to every individual on your team. But a good leader will make each member feel heard.
Be Direct, Clear, and Concise
Keep it short and simple. The more concise you can keep the who, what, where, when, and hows, the quicker you get your message across.
It may seem that you convey more when you speak more, but using intricate language puts you at risk of losing your message and worse—sounding pompous. Don’t forget: the goal of communication is clarity.
Practising restraint forces you to focus solely on what matters, so keep your asks and assignments actionable and specific. If you’re not quite confident in the way you interact verbally, reading business journals and studying speeches can greatly improve the way you speak.
Alternatively, you can prepare your points in advance. The ultimate goal is to ensure that by the end of the conversation, your team and client understand your objectives fully.
Provide Fair and Genuine Feedback
Anyone in the tradie business knows that when the going gets tough, tasks can often become confusing. You might agree to big changes just to get someone off your back or over-promise a task you aren’t quite capable of.
Unfortunately, people-pleasing can be a natural component of project management, especially when your mindset is: just get it done already. But it causes a ton of confusion. As a matter of fact, 57% of employees report not being given clear directions by their higher-ups.
Great communicators don’t force themselves to change personalities and preferences as soon as they sit the highest seat in the drawing board. Transparency and authenticity make your partners feel comfortable and secure.
As much as you’ll want to please a client, communication is a two-way street, which means honest feedback is valuable to you and who you’re working on a project for. It goes without saying that the most positive working relationships are built on respect and an appreciation for constructive criticism.
Playback and Summarise
The average adult has an attention span of 20 minutes. It may seem generous, but it’s actually a 12-minute decrease from average attention spans a decade ago.
You may have heard of the Rule of 7—that it takes 7 repetitions of a phrase or concept to become memorable. To an extent, this may hold true. However, the number of times it takes for you to retain information depends entirely on your age and lifestyle.
Point is, by relaying key information using smart repetition, or effective frequency, the greater your chances of receiving the desired response. At the same time, you’ll want to narrow down your key points but mention them more often. Think of it this way: frequency breeds familiarity, which eventually breeds trust.
Repetition may be useful, but can also bore those on the receiving end, so recap your talking points only when it’s necessary. When wrapping up a discussion, something as simple as a bulleted list of key takeaways can act as a sufficient run-through.
Tell Stories & Be Relatable
Outlining talking points can help streamline your meeting, but you may not spot every unforeseen comment, no matter how much planning you do. Whether you’re addressing an insightful question or clearing up confusion, be prepared to go off-script.
Keep in mind that you’re speaking to clients as an expert in your field, which means business terms that may come as second nature to you may sound like total jargon to them. When information is difficult to communicate, you may be better off telling a story.
If you’re selling a service, sell the positive experience a previous client may have had with it. Knowing that you’ve collected a roster of happy customers—and presenting this in a casual, relatable manner—may put their hesitations to bed.
Similarly, you can lean on analogies to put you and your client on the same page. In an industry where elements such as scale and size are very particular, you’ll want to make sure what is “large-sized” to you is “large-sized” to your clients. Use comparative language (i.e. “large like a double mattress or large like a queen-sized mattress?”) to convey a common understanding.
Know When to Use Visual Aids
The majority of people are eye-minded, as suggested by 83% of human learning that occurs visually. Especially for presentations that require an exchange of data, visual aids are essential in keeping your team or clients informed and entertained.
You can relay your message through various formats—via a printed brochure, a how-to video, or even your standard PowerPoint presentation. But on top of deciding how best to convey your message through imagery, you’ll need to know when this is appropriate at all.
Many speakers have fallen into the trap of using visual aids as notes, which often leads to listeners becoming disconnected and disinterested. In other words, you’ll want to avoid “Death by PowerPoint.”
It helps to note that visual aids create impact and emphasis. Treat them as tools that help listeners retain the information you convey.
Consider a topic that most people tend to glaze over—let’s say numbers. You’ll need to figure out how to best convert these into images. For a large set of data, you may want to accompany your presentation with a graph or chart.
If you’re talking room renovations, you might use floor plans. If you’re talking paint jobs, you might use swatches. The list goes on.
Most importantly, don’t use visuals on a whim. People tend to underestimate the preparation they require, especially because you’ll need your graphics and delivery to complement one another.
Practice often and set up ahead of time. Finally, ensure that you aren’t relying solely on technology to help communicate your message. Your visuals may be impressive, but you’ll need to be able to generate the same impact on your own.
In the end, to best develop effective communication skills, you’ll need to go beyond just words and think about: how, why, and when you say things. You’ll also need to remember what not to say.
Communicating well is among the most vital skills any modern business leader must learn to cultivate. Listen carefully, avoid over-communicating, and commit to being relevant.