How to improve Business Communication Skills

business communication skills and strategies and business communication skills lecture notes and how to improve communication skills to make business effective
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BBA140- BUSINESS COMMUNICATION SKILLS AUTHOR: Lucy Nyundo Mutambo MSc, BSc, Professional Diploma Marketing REVIEWED: By Prof. J Tembo U N I V E R S I T Y O F LUSAKA Plot No.37543, Off Alick Nkhata Rd, Mass M e d i a , P o B o x 2 6 7 1 1 , Lusaka, Zambia +260 211 233407/258409 +260 211 233409 12/11/2013 P a g e 1 CONTENTS Course Overview ............................................................................................................................ 3 Course Objective............................................................................................................................ 3 Recommended Reading ................................................................ Error Bookmark not defined. UNIT 1: Introduction to Business Communication Skills ................................................... 5 The Importance of Communication ......................................................................................... 5 Types and Forms of Communication ...................................................................................... 1 Emotional Intelligence (EI) ......................................................................................................... 4 The Process of Communication ................................................................................................ 6 Barriers to Effective Communication ..................................................................................... 7 Rules for Good Communication ............................................................................................... 9 UNIT 2: Communication in Academic Settings ....................................................................... 1 Referencing and Plagiarism ....................................................................................................... 1 Basic Principles and Rules of Referencing ............................................................................ 3 Studying and Reading skills ...................................................................................................... 7 Comprehension from the spoken and written word (Note Taking and Making) ....... 8 Essential tools for writing ........................................................................................................... 9 Punctuation Marks ................................................................................................................... 9 Numbering, Bullets and Indentation ................................................................................ 12 Writing Academic work ............................................................................................................. 13 Academic Proposals ................................................................................................................ 14 Academic Research Reports .................................................................................................. 1 Academic Essay ......................................................................................................................... 1 UNIT 3: Communication in Business Settings ........................................................................ 3 Business Letters ........................................................................................................................ 4 Resume and CVs ....................................................................................................................... 0 Application Letters .................................................................................................................... 1 Job Descriptions ........................................................................................................................ 2 Business Reports ...................................................................................................................... 1 Minutes ......................................................................................................................................... 1 Presentations .............................................................................................................................. 1 UNIT 4: Technology and Business Communication .............................................................. 4 B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 2 Internet ............................................................................................................................................. 6 Mobile Phones ................................................................................................................................ 6 Computer ......................................................................................................................................... 6 Fax ..................................................................................................................................................... 7 Printer ............................................................................................................................................... 7 B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 3 Course Overview Communications skills are fundamental to any person’s life because naturally, man is a social being and people spend most of their time communicating in different forms; oral, non-verbal, written and interpersonal. Most successful people are those who are good at interacting with other people in different situations. The ability to skilfully interact with people is grounded in a person’s unwavering skills in the different forms of communication. Therefore, it is important for students to appreciate should and develop good communication skills. This course takes the students through a step by step process of:  Appreciating the need for communication,  the different forms of communication,  the different contexts in which they will be expected to communicate ,  And draws their attention to the realities of technological advances which have had both negative and positive impacts on communication. Although this course may appear to be bias to Business Students, all students across different programmes or faculties such as engineering, political studies, health and law are equally expected to be armed with basic communication skills to enable them to engage in effective and professional communication. “Either write things worth the reading or do things worth the writing” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Course Objective This course aims at equipping students with the basic principles and skills that are needed for communication in one’s academic, work and business life (written and verbal). Academically, students are expected to communicate in an academic manner through assignments (essays or B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 4 reports), tests, oral presentations and examinations. Unfortunately, most students have poor communication skills. Therefore, this course aims to help students improve their communication skills which are essential for success in both academic and business life. Acknowledgement This module was prepared using several sources and inspirations including: 1) Adler, R., and Elmhorst, J. (2008) Communicating at Work, McGraw Inc. 2) Bailey, S. (2006) Academic writing- A handbook for international students, 2 Ed, Routledge, USA. 3) Deakin University (2012) Communication Skills, available:http://www.deakin.edu.au/_data/assets/pdf- file/0014/21326/communication-skills.pdf accessed 12/06/13 4) Ivey, A. (2010) Perfect Presentations: How you can Master the Art of successful Presentations. UK, Andrew and Ventus Publishing 5) McPheat, S. (2012) Effective Communication Skills, UK, Ventus Publishing 6) McPheat, S.(2012) Emotional Intelligence, UK, Ventus Publishing 7) Nkonde, E., (2008) Business Communication Module, Copperbelt University, Zambia 8) Olynk, N., and Widmar, D. (2004) Identifying and Addressing Barberries to Communication, Purdue University, Indiana 9) Robinson, L., Segal, J., and Segal, R. (2013) Improving Communication Skills in Business Relationships, on-line, available; http:ww.helpguide.org/mental/effective-communication-skills.htm accessed on 05/12/13 10) University of Limerick (2012) Cite It Right- Guide to Harvard nd Referencing Style, 2 Ed, Glucksman Library, Ireland. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 5 UNIT 1: Introduction to Business Communication Skills The Importance of Communication As the famous saying goes- no man is an island. Every human being longs to interact or talk to other human beings. Man by nature is said to be a social being. Naturally, most of an individual’s time is spent on exchanging messages, sharing ideas and information in different forms (written, oral and non-verbal). In a business or organisational set up, an environment that encourages the sharing of ideas, problem solving and sharing of emotions is essential. All jobs require people to communicate through different channels and using different mediums such as telephone, emails, faxes, and face to face. This is because there are many activities and instances in which communication occurs: when working in teams, conducting meetings, interviewing, resolving conflicts, persuading others, serving customers and negotiating. Therefore, communication is inevitable and every person needs to be equipped for purposes of effective and professional communication. This is because effective communication allows better understanding of situations or people which goes a long way in resolving differences or conflicts and problem solving. Clearly, individuals and organisations engage in communication for different reasons:  For organisations to share  To give instructions visions and plans with  To influence or persuade employees or stake holders others  To Co-ordinate and control  To provide leadership  To resolve conflicts  To network  To give feedback  To share ideas  To provide guidance In the academic context, the difference between a student who understands the materials taught and one who understands and effectively communicates, is significant. This is probably what distinguishes students’ excellent students from average students. Comprehending materials is one B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 1 thing, communicating this material back is another thing. Students are expected to make oral presentations, write exams, tests and assignments as well as engage in research. All these activities demand effective communication which is the apex of student evaluation or assessment. Thus, effective communication is important in academic settings. Similarly, the need for graduates to be equipped with effective written and oral communication skills cannot be undermined. Ambition, education and capacity for hard work alone, amount to nothing if an individual cannot engage in effective communication. The Job Outlook (2005) reported that employers look out for several skills in potential employees; computer skills, analytical skills, teamwork skills and interpersonal skills. Always, communication skills top the list of skills sort after by employers. Indeed effective communication skills form the thin line between being hired and being rejected. This is because most successful graduates in terms of career progression and salary, exhibit interest in talking, working with others and desire to persuade which form essential elements of good communication skills. Morden business environments demand that individuals should be able to:  Communicate effectively with customers.  Present themselves as confident and capable.  Save valuable time and costs by engaging in effective written communication.  Make effective presentations. This is because, often it is said that good communication skills are the life blood of any student who want to excel academically or any graduate who want to be distinguished in his or her career. Types and Forms of Communication Having appreciated the importance of communication in different contexts, it is imperative to understand the different forms or categories of communication, in which people engage in. This is because these different forms of communication demand unique sets of skills or tactics. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 2  Oral Communication: this involves exchange of messages or information using spoken words and is commonly referred to as communication by word of mouth. This occurs in different interaction set ups such as meetings, talks, discussions, presentations, interviews, speeches and so on.  Written Communication: this form of communication entails the creation of a ‘hard copy’ of the message or simply written messages or words in the form of business letters, reports, research papers, articles, note taking etc. Figure 1.1: Types and forms of Communication Oral Communication Non-Verbal Communication Written Communication Interpersonal Communication  Non-Verbal Communication: this is the wordless form of communication which takes the form of postures, body language ,facial expressions, eye contacts, tension, breathing and tones etc. The B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 3 main distinguishing feature of this form of communication is the use of body language to convey messages. Cues or signs are the main tools used in this type of communication and is essentially wordless.  Interpersonal Communication: this is a type of communication that occurs between individuals, mainly involves a small number of persons. The messages exchanged are often a mix of feelings and ideas, a number of sensory channels are involved and feedback is immediate because the physical distance between the individuals is often short. This form of communication distinguishes individuals who are able to understand the emotions that are behind messages or information being shared or exchanged. As a result participants need to be Emotionally Intelligent and appreciate the difference in personalities and characters. Table 1.1: Tips for the Different forms of Communication ORAL WRITTEN COMMUNICATION INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION  Empathy  Mind the type of text  Emotional intelligence  Use of visual  Appropriate length of  Body language aids in document presentations  Encourage  Structuring of argument  Posture feedback from audience  Mind the tone  Appropriate level of  Active listening of the voice detail in document  Maintain eye  Font type and size contact  Mind the  Referencing position and body posture  know  Spacing something about your audience  Structure of document Source: Deakin University (2012) B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 4 Individuals should aim to make use of different tips or techniques for purposes of enhancing the effectiveness of these respective forms of communication. As shown in the table above. Emotional Intelligence (EI) The theory of Emotional Intelligence (EI) was coined in the 1990s by Daniel Goleman who recognised the impact of emotions in communication and relationships. Today, this theory or concept has become popular because it distinguishes individuals who are intellectually intelligent from those who are both intellectually intelligent and successful in relating with others at business level and personal level (family and friends). The ability to identify or perceive ones emotions, regulate them and those of others for purposes of managing relationships and interacting with others is referred to as Emotional Intelligence (EI). One of the common barriers to effective communication- which is often ignored is emotions and lack of appreciation of people’s different personalities. EI plays an important role in enhancing effective communication because it draws people’s attention to emotions and personalities. Often times, people are challenged to prevent their emotions from interfering with their line of duty, especially if they are expected to interact with customers, business partners and stakeholders. Although EI is often associated with Interpersonal Communication, it is an important ‘ingredient’ in all forms of communication. For instance, negative emotions can negatively impact on a person’s tone and voice during an oral presentation or can influence the mood of a meeting. At the same time, negative emotions can influence the tone that one uses in composing a business letter or an email. Therefore, emotions and behaviour must be taken care of in all forms of communication. EI is also important in distinguishing leaders. Many successful leaders and managers are Emotionally Intelligent because they are able to read people’s emotions, moods and their own and regulate them. This is very important especially in situations of conflict management and negotiation. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 5 There are four main aspects of EI- self-awareness: self-management, social awareness and relationship management. These aspects point out to one thing, the need to identify one’s own emotions and those of others, for purposes of regulating them so as to manage interaction. These abilities go hand in hand with Interpersonal Skills such as defence skills, supporting skills, probing skills, persuasive skills, negotiation skills, conflict and management skills. What is common in these Interpersonal Skills is the involvement of emotions. This could probably explain why EI is often associated with Interpersonal Communication. Apart from appreciating people’s emotions, it is important to identify and understand people’s personalities. This will enhance communication because once you identify and understand an individual’s personality; you will know how to communicate with them. The following are the different categories of personalities.  Cantankerous- such people often engage in provocative type of communication as they hardly mind other people’s opinions or emotions.  Over Confident- such individuals assume they are Jacks of all trade and often think they know everything and may easily intimidate or despise others.  Stingy or Judicious- they often like to keep ideas and information to themselves and is not willing to engage in information sharing. They often do not want to interact and are almost anti-social.  Social- often talkative and noisy may cause confusion if not watched as they do not want to keep quiet and may say a lot of irrelevant things.  Inept- they have ideas, information and opinions, usually want to share but are unable to articulate or express themselves.  Logical- usually they are critical, take their time and pick details. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 6 The Process of Communication Communication is the sharing or exchange of ideas or information among two or more people. This is often referred to as a process because it involves six core elements that interact in a complex manner and is often unconsciously done. The six elements in the communication process are: sender, receiver, message, method, aim and situation as shown in figure 1.2 below. Figure 1.2: The Communication Process Source: Pittman, A., and Lynn, B., (2011)  The Senders: is the person who comes up with the information that he wants to share. This person decides who the recipient should be, what form of communication is appropriate and what medium, designs or encodes the message. He or she conceptualises the message. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 7  The Message: this is the essence of any communication; therefore it has to be palatable to the receiver and should be relevant to the recipient.  Aim: the sender must appreciate the essence of sending a message for example to educate, inform, persuade or correct. The aim of the message helps the sender to design it in the most appropriate way.  Medium or Channel: this refers to the means by which the message will be delivered or move from the sender to the receiver. This is an important element because it determines whether or not the message will be perceived or interpreted correctly. Examples are emails, phones, fax etc. to a large extent, the medium used in sending a message says something about the importance or the weight of the message. Often messages sent by letter are regarded to be more official and serious than ones over the phone or via text messages.  The Receiver: is responsible for decoding the message and if the message does not reach the intended recipient, the communication is rendered ineffective. The way the receiver interprets and perceives the message is very important and the ideal situation is that he/she should make the right interpretation.  Timing and Situation: knowing the right time and situation when to communicate messages influences the extent to which the communication will be effective. Sending the right message at the wrong time can result in misinterpretation of the message.  Feedback: this shows whether or not the communication was effective or indicates whether or not the receiver interpreted the message correctly. Barriers to Effective Communication Conceptualising a message, information or idea for purposes of communicating is one thing, but getting the right or correct interpretation of the conceptualised message is another thing. This is because often messages are misinterpreted or the wrong message gets to be delivered to the recipient due to different things. This results in communication being B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 8 ineffective. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the common barriers to effective communication.  Use of jargon- this happens when words or phrases that may not be understood by an average person are used. For instance, if a doctor uses technical words or phrases in explaining to a patient, the patient may not understand what the doctor is trying to say.  Emotional and Psychological barriers- This happens when emotions or mind sets influence communication. For example, a brilliant student may be emotionally distressed and psychologically challenged due to the critical illness of a beloved one, this will make him or her engages in effective written communication in an exam or test.  Physical and environmental barriers- there are many things in the environment that may cause communication breakdown for instance, wall, noise or even weather. Noise can make it difficult to listen during communication , while hot weather often make people unrest less or doze which makes it difficult to communicate especially in a classroom set up.  Religion, Cultural and Taboo- Often times, this results in communication break down because some ideas and information shared may be acceptable in one religion or culture but not in another. For instances, religious messages and understanding is different among Christians and Muslims.  Language- This is one of the most common causes of communication breakdown. Messages or information in one language may have completely different meanings in another and may be offensive. Thus, extra care must be taken in translating messages from one language to another. For instance in Bemba the word ‘PESONDE’ means on ÉARTH’ but a similar Lamba word ‘POSONDE’ means ‘OUTSIDE’.  Gender Differences- this refers to the difference in sex (male and female). For example, a man may say certain things to fellow men which may not be perceived offensive but if the same is told to women, it may be perceived to be offensive. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 9  Information overload- This is yet another common cause of communication breakdown. When too much information is communicated at the same time, there are chances that the recipient may not understand this information. For example if a boss gives too many tasks or instructions to his subordinates at one go, there are high chances that the subordinates will not effectively carry out the instructions or tasks.  Inadequate Information- this is the opposite side of a coin to information overload. This occurs when little information is given. For example, if a person is told to prepare chicken for lunch, but no specific instructions are given on the method (boiled, grilled or fried), this information may be considered to be inadequate or general.  Information Distortion- This occurs when the original information or message is altered along the communication process. This often happens in oral communication especially one people are asked to orally pass on the information to different people. For example, the original message could be “DO NOT BE SELFISH” while the final message could be “YOU ARE SELFISH”.  Denotations, Connotation and Abbreviations- Denotations refer to when people mean what they say while Connotations refers to situations in which people mean different things from what they say. While Abbreviations are short forms of words or names etc. For example ASAP (As Soon as Possible), 24/7 (the whole week), kid (a child), Networking (socialising), Minting Money (High Returns) etc. Rules for Good Communication Despite the several barriers to effective communication, people can still engage in effective communication. There are many tips for good and effective communication.  Be clear and transparent  Be assertive  Use simple English  Do not assume things  Be well prepared  Encourage two way  Be generic communication B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 1  Pick a good time to talk  Listen and be attentive  Use good body language  Be consistent, firm and fair EXERCISE Mrs Zimba is the Branch Manager for Bank UB in Nakonde. One of the Bank’s corporate clients is very annoyed because the Bank delayed the wiring of money to a supplier’s account which has resulted in this corporate client suffering some business loss. A fax had been sent to instruct the Bank to wire the money followed by a phone call to confirm receipt of the fax. Unfortunately, the Bank did not act on this instruction hence the complaint. Mrs Zimba needs to do some damage control and find out from her subordinates how this happened. From her enquiries, it turns out that the person who got the fax and answered the phone did not carry out the instruction because shortly after he got the instruction, he received an emergency call from his wife and had to rush to the hospital. In the midst of all this confusion, he forgot to pass on the instruction to one of his colleagues. 1) Identify and mention the forms of communication that are explicit in the given scenario. 2) State and explain the cause of the communication breakdown in the given case. 3) What forms of communication would you recommend for Mrs Zimba to use when communicating with her: Subordinates, the Client in question and the member of staff who received this instruction but failed to act on it? Give examples and justify your recommendations. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 1 UNIT 2: Communication in Academic Settings During the entire academic life, all students are expected to engage in academic communication through exams, tests, assignments, presentations and dissertation writing, failure to which the award would not be conferred. Academic communication, be it oral or written is important, because it is the only way students can be evaluated. Therefore, it is important for all students to be skilled in academic communication, especially the written form. Unfortunately, many students engage in academic misconduct due to plagiarism and poor referencing. Worldwide, students are expected to respect and acknowledge the work and ideas of other scholars due to the laws that protect intellectual property. Thus, skills on how to systematically acknowledge other scholars work are required in academic writing.  What is plagiarism? This is the act of passing on other people’s works, ideas or thoughts as if there were your own original works, ideas or thoughts, without the permission of the actual author. In very simply terms, this is theft of other people’s intellectual property.  What is Referencing? This is a process or standard way of acknowledging other people’s theories, ideas, illustrations, diagrams or works in general. This shows respect and acknowledgement of other scholar’s work and is a professional way of writing academic work. Referencing and Plagiarism Referencing is important in academic writing because it not only shows respect for other scholars, but also demonstrates that one has read and thought about the literature which gives credibility to written work. Referencing allows the reader to validate and confirm the sources of information used in a particular piece of work. However, care must be taken in referencing because there is a thin line between Poor Referencing and Plagiarism. Poor referencing often occurs when one acknowledges the B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 2 original author but imitates or passes on his or her ideas and works using the exact words or language of the original author. In order to appreciate the difference between poor referencing and different cases of plagiarism consider the original text given below and the different scenarios following the text. Original Text: Communicating with Technology Today, there are several mediums in which to communicate with your employees. For any set of circumstances it might be appropriate to talk with an employee face-to-face, over the phone, via text messaging, or even with an email. It is critical that the medium in which you communicate with your employees is considered. For example, the appropriate medium to tell your employees they need to work Sunday morning might be different than to reaffirm your thankfulness for their dedication after a long week of feeding in snow and ice. All of these mediums can be used; it is managements’ role to determine which medium is appropriate for the message, the situation, and the receiver. Source: Olynk, N., and Widmar, D., (2004) Identifying and Addressing Barriers to Communication””, Purdue University  Case 1: Word-for- word Plagiarism Today, there are several mediums in which to communicate with your employees. For any set of circumstances it might be appropriate to talk with an employee face-to-face, over the phone, via text messaging, or even with an email. It is critical that the medium in which you communicate with your employees is considered. For example, the appropriate medium to tell your employees they need to work Sunday morning might be different than to reaffirm your thankfulness for their dedication after a long week of feeding in snow and ice. All of these mediums can be used; it is managements’ role to determine which medium is appropriate for the message, the situation, and the receiver. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 3  Case 2: Paraphrased Plagiarism Currently, there are many mediums in which to communicate with your employees. Depending on the situation, it might be appropriate to talk with an employee face-to-face, over the phone, via text messaging, or even with an email. Therefore it is critical that the medium in which you communicate with your employees is considered. For example, the suitable medium to tell your employees they need to work Sunday morning might be different than to reaffirm your thankfulness for their dedication after a long week of feeding in snow and ice. All of these mediums can be used; it is managements’ responsibility to decide which medium is appropriate for the message, the situation, and the receiver.  Case 3: Poor Referencing Currently, there are many mediums in which to communicate with your employees. Depending on the situation, it might be appropriate to talk with an employee face-to-face, over the phone, via text messaging, or even with an email. Therefore it is critical that the medium in which you communicate with your employees is considered. For example, the suitable medium to tell your employees they need to work Sunday morning might be different than to reaffirm your thankfulness for their dedication after a long week of feeding in snow and ice. All of these mediums can be used; it is managements’ responsibility to decide which medium is appropriate for the message, the situation, and the receiver (Olynk and Widmar, 2004).  Case 4: Ideal Referencing The advent of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has resulted in the wider availability of mediums of communications. However, the onus is on the sender of the message to determine the suitable medium per given situation. For example Olynk and Widnar (2004) suggest that when you want to request employees to do something, you will use a different medium from when you want to acknowledge their commitment and contribution. Basic Principles and Rules of Referencing There is a difference between how you acknowledge in the main body and the reference list. When you acknowledge the author(s) in the main body, this is referred to as a CITATION. Once you CITE in the main body, a full REFERENCE is expected at the end of the piece of work i.e. reference. B.Com 2013 Module P a g e 4 For instance in the main body you may cite as follows: Olynk and Widnar (2004) explain that......or; According to Olynk and Widnar (2004)...or; medium of communication is dependent on the message, situation and recipient (Olynk & Widnar, 2004). Once this appears in the main body, then the full reference of such a citation in the reference list should be: Olynk, N., and Widmar, D. (2004) Identifying and Addressing Barriers to Communication”, Purdue University. Despite the various ways or options that are available for main body citing, the key elements of citing are the author’s name, year of publication and where necessary, the page number. Another important rule to remember about main body citing is the number of authors of a particular piece of work being referred to. When you have more than two authors, for example Mweemba, Lubasi and Chongo (2010), the proper way of citing this in the main body is: Mweemba et al (2010), where “et al” means Mweemba and others. However, all the names of the authors should be written in the reference list – Mweemba, K., Lubasi, I., and Chongo, S. (2010) A Report on cotton growers in Eastern province, 27-2010: Lusaka, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. Apart from taking note of the number of authors, another important rule of citing in the main body is where the same author(s) published two pieces of work in the same year and you happen to be using both works in the same paper. To differentiate the two pieces of work, one would be given á’ and the other would be assigned ‘b’. For example, if Musongole published an article on Consumer Behaviour in 2012 and in the same year wrote a paper on the importance of Business Communication. You cite these two different papers in the main body as: Musongole (2012a) and Musongole (2012b) but in the reference list you give the full details of the respective papers as follows:  First Paper: Musongole, M. (2012a) “Consumer Behaviour in the Zambian Rural Set Up”, Journal of Zambian Marketing, Vol 1(2), pp 21-23. B.Com 2013 Module