Career Keystone - Communication
Great engineering requires visibility. People must know what you are creating and what problems are solved. If people don’t know about your work, it can’t impact the world. Communication skills are vital. Your communication skills are a force multiplier that will substantially increase your opportunities and world impact.
The three laws of career growth are:
For most people, it’s easy to focus on one or two of these laws. If you want to maximize your career growth and world impact, you need to cover all three.
These laws apply to software engineers, but they also apply in any line of work. I use these three laws as an entrepreneur, as an artist, as a project manager, as a mentor, and as a software engineer.
The Third Law - Communication
No matter what type of value you deliver in the world and what people you work with, communication is a foundational requirement.
People need to know about your work. What do you do? What problems do you solve? What solutions have you created? How will working with you improve their life, either personally, or in business? How can people work with you? These are all questions that great communication answers.
Communication is a cornerstone.
Great communication is clear. It minimizes ambiguity. It’s easy to understand.
Great communication is intentional. The purpose of the communication is known and everything in the communication is directed toward that intent.
Great communication is concise. It respects the time and attention of others through directness and minimal noise.
Great communication is medium-selective. Use the best method of communication for quick comprehension. Often pictures, videos, and graphs are better than conversations or documents.
Great communication is targeted. It’s communication in a method that ensures the correct recipients receive the key message.
Learning how to communicate effectively is a lifelong skill that you will work to develop. You can always improve your communication, and the rewards for better communication are limitless.
How can we master the law of communication?
Continually practice your communication at work!
Hone your message. When communicating take note of what parts resonate with people. Is what you are communicating what they are trying to ascertain? Communication is primarily about your recipient and not you. Focus on what people are looking to hear and the questions they want to be answered. Don’t communicate just because you want to share something.
Look for ways to communicate more. Take note when people ask you questions about your work. Could you answer those proactively, with more information on your website or in project documentation? Take note when you and your work are high-value but aren’t being seen. How can you help people discover your work?
Organize your communication better. Can you make it easier for people to find answers to the questions they have? Do people know when they can message you? Do they know how to message you? Do they know what to message you (and not message you) about?
Simplify your communication. Can you communicate the same message with less effort? Can you communicate using simpler words? Work to make communication as easy as possible. You want every message to be smooth, frictionless, and easily digestible.
Refine your communication. Review important pieces of communication. Evolve your knowledge of various mediums. Improve your writing with more phases of review and by getting feedback from others. Ask others for feedback on your documents and presentations. Apply all the feedback you get and allow it to shape your future communications.
Where do you apply the law of communication?
Before beginning a unit of work. Everyone should have a clear idea of what is being worked on, and what are the resource limits.
During the work. People need to be able to discover the status of work while it’s in progress. If you are proactive about this, it can save a ton of time and reduce needless interactions.
When action is needed from someone else. You must clearly hand off a piece of work for the next work phase or review. Transitions between people or work phases can be a major timesink if not handled with very strong and clear communication.
When assigning a work task to another person. When you are organizing work, do the other people involved know exactly what is expected of them? Do they know the quality standards for the work? Do they know the rewards and penalties for great or poor performance?
When work is finished. Clearly indicate the value that has been provided. What numbers changed and by how much? What problem is solved that wasn’t previously?
When seeking new work projects. Do people know when you are free for new work? Do you have a growing portfolio of demonstrable work completed?
There are honestly very few times when communication shouldn’t be directly involved in your thoughts and approach to working. Even when you are heads-down deep in solving a problem or creating something, your mind should be oriented towards the communicability of your work.
The Law of Communication is the third law of career growth and world impact.
It comes behind the Laws of Value and People since if you have nothing to offer others, you won’t be able to improve anyone’s lives, and if you don’t already have some social context for your work, your communication has nowhere to go.
Communication is the force multiplier that opens up new opportunities in the world and allows you to impact more lives. It’s the most powerful bit to help you to advance in your career and climb the corporate ladder, or scale a business of your own.
The better you can reach people with the message of how you create value and how you can benefit them, and the more compelling and convincing your message is, the more lives you will be able to touch.
What other techniques do you have for improving your business communications?
Share them with me in the comments below.