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Business Communication

Post Number: #1  Postby Jessica » May 29th, 2013, 10:08 pm

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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #2  Postby Jessica » May 29th, 2013, 10:08 pm

Achieving Success Through Effective Business Communication




Understanding Why Communication Matters

Communication is the process of transferring information and meaning between senders and receivers, using one or more written, oral, visual, or electronic media.

The essence of communication is sharing—data, information, insights, and inspiration.

Communication Is Important to Your Career
Improving your communication skills may be the single most important step you can take in your career.
Even great ideas won’t go anywhere without great communication.
As you take on leadership and management roles, communication becomes even more important.
If you learn to write well, speak well, listen well, and recognize the appropriate way to communicate in any situation, you’ll gain a major advantage that will serve you throughout your career.

Communication Is Important to Your Company
  • Effective communication helps businesses in numerous ways:
  • Closer ties with important communities in the marketplace
  • Opportunities to influence conversations, perceptions, and trends
  • Increased productivity and faster problem solving
  • Better financial results and higher return for investors
  • Earlier warning of potential problems
  • Stronger decision making
  • More persuasive marketing messages
  • Greater employee engagement


What Makes Business Communication Effective?
Stakeholders are groups affected in some way by the company’s actions: customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, neighbors, the community, the nation, the world.

When communication breaks down, the results can range from time wasting to tragic.

To make your communication efforts as effective as possible, focus on making them practical, factual, concise, clear, and persuasive.
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #3  Postby Jessica » June 26th, 2013, 1:48 pm

Communicating in Today’s Global Business Environment

Understanding the Unique Challenges of Business Communication

Business communication is often more complicated and demanding than social communication.

Five issues highlight why business communication requires a high level of skill and attention:
  • The globalization of business and the increase in workforce diversity
  • The increasing value of business information; companies rely heavily on knowledge workers
  • The pervasiveness of technology; technology influences virtually every aspect of business communication today
  • The evolution of organizational structures and leadership styles, with flatter structures, matrix organizations, networks, virtual organizations, and more open corporate cultures
  • A heavy reliance on teamwork

Globalization is the increasing effort to reach across international borders in order to
  • Market products
  • Partner with other businesses
  • Employ workers and executives

Workforce diversity refers to all those differences among the people you come into contact with on the job, including differences in
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Education
  • Cultural background
  • Religion
  • Ability
  • Life experience

Knowledge workers are employees who specialize in acquiring, processing, and communicating information.

Technology influences virtually every aspect of business communication today.

If your level of technical expertise doesn't keep up with that of your colleagues and co-workers, the imbalance can put you at a disadvantage and complicate the communication process.

Flat organizational structures
  • Help communication flow faster and with fewer disruptions and distortions
  • Require more individual responsibility for communication—particularly in the horizontal direction

Specific types of organization structures present unique communication challenges.
  • In a matrix structure, employees report to two managers at the same time, such as a project manager and a department manager, and have an increased communication burden.
  • In a network structure, sometimes known as a virtual organization, a company supplements the talents of its employees with services from one or more external partners.

Corporate culture is the mixture of values, traditions, and habits that give a company its atmosphere and personality.

Successful companies encourage employee contributions by ensuring that communication flows freely in all directions within the organization.

An open climate encourages candor and honesty that allows employees to feel free enough to admit their mistakes, disagree with the boss, and share negative or unwelcome information.

Teams offer organizations many potential advantages and require you to become more responsible for communication.


Understanding What Employers Expect from You

Today’s employers expect you to be competent at a wide range of communication tasks:
  • Organizing ideas and information logically and completely
  • Expressing ideas and information coherently and persuasively
  • Actively listening to others
  • Communicating effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences
  • Using communication technologies effectively and efficiently
  • Following accepted standards of grammar, spelling, and usage
  • Communicating in a civilized manner
  • Communicating ethically, even when choices aren’t crystal clear
  • Managing your time wisely and using resources efficiently


Communicating in an Organizational Context

In the formal communication network, ideas and information flow along the lines of command in three directions; downward, upward and horizontally.

In the informal communication network, often referred to as the grapevine or the rumor mill, communication occurs outside the formal network; social media now play a huge role.


Adopting an Audience-Centered Approach

An audience-centered approach involves understanding and respecting the members of your audience and making every effort to get your message across in a way that is meaningful to them.

Also known as adopting the “you” attitude, in contrast to messages that are about “me.”

Etiquette encompasses the expected norms of behavior in any particular situation.
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #4  Postby Jessica » July 10th, 2013, 8:02 pm

Exploring the Communication Process

Even well-intentioned communication efforts can fail.

By understanding communication as a process with distinct steps, you can improve the odds that your messages will reach their intended audiences and produce their intended effects.


The Basic Communication Model

By viewing communication as a process, you can identify and improve the skills you need to be more successful:
  • The sender has an idea.
  • The sender encodes the idea as a message.
  • The sender produces the message in a medium.
  • The sender transmits the message through a channel.
  • The audience receives the message.
  • The audience decodes the message.
  • The audience responds to the message.
  • The audience provides feedback.

Considering the complexity of this process, it should come as no surprise that communication efforts often fail to achieve the sender’s objective.


Barriers in the Communication Environment

Messages can be disrupted by a variety of communication barriers:
  • Noise and distractions, including multitasking
  • Competing messages
  • Filters, both human and technological
  • Channel breakdowns

Everyone in an organization can help minimize barriers and distractions.

Take steps to insulate yourself from distractions, including disconnecting from constant message feeds and updates.


Inside the Mind of Your Audience

For an audience member to receive a message, the receiver has to
  • sense the presence of a message
  • select it from all the other messages clamoring for attention
  • perceive it as an actual message

Five habits to increase the chances that your messages will be sensed, selected, and perceived:
  • Consider audience expectations
  • Ensure ease of use
  • Emphasize familiarity
  • Practice empathy
  • Design for compatibility

A received message doesn't mean anything until the recipient decodes it and assigns meaning to it.

There is no guarantee that the receiver will assign the same meaning that the sender intended.

Audiences tend to extract the meaning they expect to get from a message.

Culture plays a huge role in how messages are decoded.

Individual beliefs and biases influence the meaning that audiences extract from messages.

Selective perception occurs when people distort threatening or confusing information to make it fit their perceptions of reality.

Differences in language and usage influence received meaning.

Individual thinking styles affect message decoding.

Audience members will respond in the way you’ d like them to if
  • They remember the message long enough to act on it.
  • They are able to respond as you wish.
  • They are motivated to respond.
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #5  Postby Jessica » July 10th, 2013, 8:07 pm

Using Technology to Improve Business Communication

Today’s businesses rely heavily on technology to facilitate the communication process.

To use communication technology effectively, you need to
  • Keep technology in perspective
  • Guard against information overload and information addiction
  • Use technological tools productively
  • Disengage from the computer frequently to communicate in person


Keeping Technology in Perspective

Remember that technology is simply a tool, a means by which you can accomplish certain tasks.

Technology is an aid to interpersonal communication, not a replacement for it.

Technology has business value only if it helps deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.


Guarding Against Information Overload and Information Addiction

The overuse or misuse of communication technology can lead to information overload, in which people receive more information than they can effectively process.

Information overload makes it difficult to discriminate between useful and useless information, lowers productivity, and amplifies employee stress both on the job and at home.

As a recipient, use the filtering features of your communication systems to isolate high-priority messages that deserve your attention; be wary of subscribing to too many feeds; focus on the information you truly need to do your job.

As a sender, reduce information overload by making sure you don’t send unnecessary messages; indicate the priority of messages to help receivers know how to react to them.

Information technology addiction is craving the stimulation of being connected around the clock, even while on vacation; being constantly “plugged in” often does more harm than good.


Using Technological Tools Productively

In the “information technology paradox,” information tools can waste as much time as they save.

Inappropriate web use not only distracts employees from work responsibilities but can leave employers open to lawsuits.

Social media can expose confidential information or damage a firm’s reputation in the marketplace.

Employers need clear policies that are enforced evenly for all employees.

Knowing how to use tools efficiently can make a big difference in your productivity.

Managers need to guide and train their employees in productive use of information tools.


Reconnecting with People

Even the best technologies cannot truly match the rich experience of person-to-person contact.

Reconnect in person, or at least over the phone, from time to time in order to maintain positive working relationships.
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #6  Postby Jessica » July 10th, 2013, 8:07 pm

Committing to Ethical and Legal Communication

Ethics are the principles of conduct that govern behavior within a society.

Ethical communication
  • Includes all relevant information
  • Is true in every sense
  • Is not deceptive in any way

Examples of unethical communication include
  • Plagiarism
  • Omitting essential information
  • Selective misquoting
  • Misrepresenting numbers
  • Distorting visuals
  • Failing to respect privacy or information security needs


Distinguishing Ethical Dilemmas from Ethical Lapses

An ethical dilemma involves making a choice when the alternatives aren’t completely wrong or completely right:
  • Two conflicting alternatives that are both ethical and valid
  • Two alternatives that lie somewhere in the vast gray area between right and wrong

An ethical lapse is a clearly unethical choice.


Ensuring Ethical Communication

To ensure ethical communication, three elements need to be in place and to work in harmony:
  • Ethical individuals
  • Ethical company leadership
  • The appropriate policies and structures to support employees’ efforts to make ethical choices

A code of ethics is an explicit written policy of ethics guidelines that helps employees determine what is acceptable.

Ethics audits monitor ethical progress and point out any weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Every employee has the responsibility to communicate in an ethical manner.

In the absence of clear guidelines, ask yourself the following questions about your business communication efforts:
  • Have I defined the situation fairly and accurately?
  • What is my intention in communicating this message?
  • What impact will the message have on those who receive it or who might be affected by it?
  • Will the message achieve the greatest possible good while doing the least possible harm?
  • Will the assumptions I’v e made change over time? That is, will a decision that seems ethical now seem unethical in the future?
  • Am I comfortable with my decision? Would I be embarrassed if it were printed in tomorrow’s newspaper or spread across the Internet?


Ensuring Legal Communication

In addition to ethical guidelines, business communication is also bound by a wide variety of laws and regulations, including the following areas:
  • Promotional communication. Marketing specialists need to be aware of the many laws that govern truth and accuracy in advertising.
  • Contracts. A contract is a legally binding promise between two parties, in which one party makes a specified offer and the other party accepts.
  • Employment communication. A variety of local, state, and federal laws govern communication between employers and both potential and current employees.
  • Intellectual property. In an age when instant global connectivity makes it effortless to copy and retransmit electronic files, the protection of intellectual property (IP) has become a widespread concern.
  • Financial reporting. Finance and accounting professionals who work for publicly traded companies must adhere to stringent reporting laws.
  • Defamation. Negative comments about another party raise the possibility of defamation, the intentional communication of false statements that damage character or reputation. (Written defamation is called libel; spoken defamation is called slander.)
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #7  Postby Jessica » July 10th, 2013, 8:17 pm

Mastering Team Skills and Interpersonal Communication




Communicating Effectively in Teams

Collaboration—working together to meet complex challenges—has become a core job responsibility for roughly half the U.S. workforce.

A team is a unit of two or more people who share a mission and the responsibility for working to achieve a common goal.

Problem-solving teams and task forces assemble to resolve specific issues and then disband when their goals have been accomplished.

Such teams are often cross-functional, pulling together people from a variety of departments who have different areas of expertise and responsibility.

Diversity of opinions and experiences can lead to better decisions, but competing interests can create tension.

Committees are formal teams that can become a permanent part of the organizational structure.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Teams

Teams are often part of participative management, the effort to involve employees in the company’s decision making.

A successful team can provide advantages, such as
  • Increased information and knowledge
  • Increased diversity of views
  • Increased acceptance of a solution
  • Higher performance levels

Teams can also have disadvantages, such as
  • Groupthink—occurs when peer pressures cause individual team members to withhold contrary or unpopular opinions
  • Hidden agendas—private, counterproductive motives that undermine someone else on the team
  • Cost—aligning schedules, arranging meetings, and coordinating individual parts of a project can eat up a lot of time and money


Characteristics of Effective Teams

The most effective teams
  • Have a clear objective and a shared sense of purpose
  • Communicate openly and honestly
  • Reach decisions by consensus
  • Think creatively
  • Know how to resolve conflict

Ineffective teams
  • Get bogged down in conflict
  • Waste time and resources pursuing unclear goals

Two of the most common reasons cited for unsuccessful teamwork are a lack of trust and poor communication.


Group Dynamics

Group dynamics are the interactions and processes that take place among members in a team.

Productive teams tend to develop positive norms, informal standards of conduct that members share and that guide member behavior.

Group dynamics are influenced by
  • The roles assumed by team members
  • The current phase of team development
  • The team’s success in resolving conflict
  • The team’s success in overcoming resistance

Team members can play various roles:
  • Self-oriented roles are played by those motivated mainly to fulfill personal needs, these individuals tend to be less productive than other members
  • Team-maintenance roles are played by those who help everyone work well together
  • Task-facilitating roles are played by those who help the team reach its goals

As teams grow and evolve, they generally pass through a variety of stages, such as these five:
  • Orientation
  • Conflict
  • Brainstorming
  • Emergence
  • Reinforcement

Another common model, proposed by Bruce Tuckman:
  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing
  • Adjourning

Conflict in team activities can result from
  • Competition for resources
  • Disagreement over goals or responsibilities
  • Poor communication
  • Power struggles
  • Fundamental differences in values, attitudes, and personalities

Conflict is not necessarily bad.

Conflict can be constructive if it
  • Forces important issues into the open
  • Increases the involvement of team members
  • Generates creative ideas for the solution to a problem

Conflict can be destructive if it
  • Diverts energy from more important issues
  • Destroys morale of teams or individual team members
  • Polarizes or divides the team

Destructive conflict can lead to win-lose or lose-lose outcomes, in which one or both sides lose, to the detriment of the entire team.

If you approach conflict with the idea that both sides can satisfy their goals to at least some extent (a win-win strategy), you can minimize losses for everyone.

For the win-win strategy to work, everybody must believe that
  • It’s possible to find a solution that both parties can accept
  • Cooperation is better for the organization than competition
  • The other party can be trusted
  • Greater power or status doesn't entitle one party to impose a solution

Conflict can be resolved through
  • Proactive management: deal with minor conflict before it becomes major conflict
  • Communication: get those involved with the conflict actively involved in resolution
  • Openness: Get feelings out into the open before dealing with main issues
  • Research: Get the facts before attempting a resolution
  • Flexibility: Don’t let anyone lock into a position before considering all possible solutions
  • Fair play: Insist on a fair outcome that doesn't hide behind rules
  • Alliance: Unite the team against an “outside force” instead of each other

When attempting to overcome irrational resistance, try to
  • Express understanding
  • Bring resistance out into the open
  • Evaluate others’ objections fairly
  • Hold your arguments until the other person is ready for them
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #8  Postby Jessica » July 16th, 2013, 11:33 am

Collaborating on Communication Efforts

When teams collaborate, the collective energy and expertise of the various members can lead to results that transcend what each individual could do otherwise.

However, collaborating on team messages requires special effort.


Guidelines for Collaborative Writing

In any collaborative effort, team members coming from different backgrounds may have different work habits or priorities, for example
  • A technical expert to focus on accuracy and scientific standards
  • An editor to be more concerned about organization and coherence
  • A manager to focus on schedules, cost, and corporate goals

Remember that the ways in which team members differ in writing styles and personality traits can complicate the creative nature of communication

To collaborate successfully, follow these guidelines:
  • Select collaborators carefully
  • Agree on project goals before you start
  • Give your team time to bond before diving in
  • Clarify individual responsibilities
  • Establish clear processes
  • Avoid composing as a group
  • Make sure tools and techniques are ready and compatible across the team
  • Check to see how things are going along the way


Technologies for Collaborative Writing

Among the simpler collaboration tools are group review and editing features in

  • Word processing software
  • Adobe Acrobat (PDF files)
  • Web-based document systems such as Google Docs

More complex solutions include content management systems that organize and control the content for many websites (particularly larger corporate sites).

A wiki is a website that allows anyone with access to add new material and edit existing material.

Key benefits of wikis include
  • Simple operation
  • Freedom to post new or revised material without prior approval

This approach is quite different from a content management system, in which both the organization of the website and the work flow are tightly controlled.

Example uses:
  • A content management system is a great tool for maintaining consistent presentation on a company’s primary public website.
  • A wiki allows a team to collaborate with speed and flexibility.

Enterprise wiki systems have additional features:
  • Access control lets a team leader identify who is allowed to read and modify a wiki.
  • Change monitoring alerts team members when significant changes or additions are made.
  • Rollback allows a team to “travel back in time” to see all previous versions of pages.

Groupware is an umbrella term for systems that let people simultaneously
  • Communicate
  • Share files
  • Present materials
  • Work on documents

Shared workspaces are “virtual offices” that
  • Give everyone on a team access to the same set of resources and information
  • Are accessible through a web browser
  • Control which team members can read, edit, and save specific files
  • Can allow only one person at a time to work on a given file or document to avoid getting edits out of sync
  • May include presence awareness

The terms intranet (restricted internal website) and extranet (restricted, but with outside access) are still used in some companies.

Cloud computing expands the ways in which geographically dispersed teams can collaborate.


Social Networks and Virtual Communities

Social networking technologies are redefining teamwork and team communication by helping erase the constraints of geographic and organization boundaries.

In addition to enabling and enhancing teamwork, social networks have numerous other business applications and benefits (covered in Chapter 7).

Two fundamental elements of any social networking technology:
  • Profiles—the information stored about each member of the network
  • Connections—mechanisms for finding and communicating with other members

Most significant social network for business professionals is LinkedIn.

Virtual communities or communities of practice link employees with similar professional interests throughout the company and sometimes with customers and suppliers as well.

Social networking can also help a company maintain a sense of community even as it grows beyond the size that normally permits a lot of daily interaction.


Giving—and Responding to—Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback, sometimes called constructive criticism, focuses on the process and outcomes of communication, not on the people involved.

Destructive feedback delivers criticism with no guidance to stimulate improvement.

When you give feedback, try to
  • Avoid personal attacks
  • Give the person clear guidelines for improvement

When you receive constructive feedback, try to
  • Resist the urge to defend your work or deny the validity of the feedback
  • Disconnect emotionally from the work and see it simply as something that can be made better
  • Step back and consider the feedback before diving in to make corrections
  • Don’t assume that all constructive feedback is necessarily correct
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #9  Postby Jessica » July 16th, 2013, 11:35 am

Making Your Meetings More Productive

Well-run meetings can help you
  • Solve problems
  • Develop ideas
  • Identify opportunities

Meetings are unproductive when they
  • Wander off the subject
  • Lack an agenda
  • Run too long


Preparing for Meetings

To increase the productivity of meetings, prepare carefully:
  • Identify your purpose—whether you need an informational or a decision-making meeting.
  • Select participants whose presence is essential.
  • Choose the venue and time and prepare the facility.
  • Set the agenda.
  • An effective agenda answers three questions:
  • What do we need to do in this meeting to accomplish our goals?
  • What issues will be of greatest importance to all participants?
  • What information must be available in order to discuss these issues?


Conducting and Contributing to Efficient Meetings

Ensure a productive meeting by
  • Keeping the discussion on track
  • Following agreed-upon rules, including parliamentary procedure, if appropriate
  • Encouraging participation
  • Participating actively
  • Closing effectively

In formal meetings, one person is appointed to record the minutes.

In small meetings, attendees often make their own notes on their copies of the agenda.

The minutes of a meeting summarize
  • The important information presented
  • The decisions made
  • The people responsible for follow-up action
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Re: Business Communication

Post Number: #10  Postby Jessica » July 20th, 2013, 8:47 pm

Using Meeting Technologies

Replacing in-person meetings with long-distance, virtual interaction can
  • Dramatically reduce costs and resource usage
  • Reduce wear and tear on employees
  • Give teams access to a wider pool of expertise

Virtual teams have members who work in different locations and interact electronically through virtual meetings.

Basic teleconferencing involves three or more people connected by phone simultaneously.

Videoconferencing combines live audio and video letting team members see each other, demonstrate products, and transmit other visual information.

Telepresence is the most advanced feature in which the interaction feels so lifelike that participants can forget that the person “sitting” on the other side of the table is actually in another city.

Web-based meeting systems combine the best of instant messaging, shared workspaces, and videoconferencing with other tools such as virtual whiteboards that let teams collaborate in real time.

Technology continues to create intriguing opportunities for online interaction:
  • Online brainstorming allows companies to conduct “idea campaigns” to generate new ideas from people across the organization.
  • Some companies are experimenting with virtual worlds such as Second Life; employees can create their own character (known as avatars) and can attend meetings, training sessions, sales presentations, and other activities.
  • Other virtual worlds more closely simulate real-life facilities
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