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Want to Climb the Corporate Ladder? These Skills Are a Leg Up

06/08/2014 11:47 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:05 EDT
BJ Formento via Getty Images

In today's highly competitive business world, climbing the corporate ladder takes more than a good education and solid job experience. You need to have an edge -- and being a strong communicator can help. But business communication isn't just about public speaking and writing. It's also about being strategic in the way you interact with others. You can't become a great leader without learning how to be a great communicator.

Using these 10 tips will help you demonstrate to all those around you that you're leadership material:

1. Listen and show interest in others

Listening is everything. Smart communicators show interest in what others have to say because they know that the better they listen, the more they'll be listened to. Listening helps you not only to understand your audience's needs but also to customize your message so it is persuasive. And when you communicate interest in your audience, they'll be more receptive to your message.

2. Get to the point quickly and clearly

Whether you're making a statement or answering a question, get to the point quickly. Rambling undermines what you're trying to say, and no one has time to figure out your main message. To be concise and keep to the point:

• Be specific, be brief, and make every word count.

• Stick to one issue at a time to avoid confusing tangents.

• Distill complex concepts into simple and memorable terms.

3. Know what you're talking about

Get to know your industry so you can add value to every communication. You can do this by regularly seeking out information on industry best practices, current issues, major players, and thought leaders. Use this knowledge to strengthen your opinions and make yourself a go-to resource in your field.

4. Tailor the way you talk to your audience

The best communicators have an ability to read their audience and adapt their message accordingly, even at a moment's notice. This means understanding how an audience of any size wants their message delivered.

5. Address misunderstandings immediately

Watch for signs that your audience has misunderstood your message by looking for what is not being said. If you're face to face, notice nonverbal cues and remedy the problem immediately by clarifying or adapting your message.

6. Welcome opposing views

When faced with an opposing view, be willing to discuss it with an open mind. It will help you understand how others think so you can convey your message in a way that speaks to their views and needs.

7. Show that you're sure of yourself

Don't give people a reason to tune out when you're sharing an opinion or idea:

• Take ownership of what you're saying by using "I," not "we."

• Avoid prefacing an opinion with "I may be wrong, but ..." or "This is just my opinion, but ..."

• Use eye contact to communicate your engagement.

• Avoid raising your intonation at the end of a sentence.

• Nod only when you're agreeing, not when you're listening.

8. Be authentic

Use your own voice. It's OK to use corporate jargon minimally, but don't let it take over. Focus on showcasing your values and being genuine instead of dressing up your message for the sake of eloquence. People respect and follow leaders who are willing to reveal who they really are.

9. Make a good impression

Smart communicators make sure they have regular face-to-face meetings to build a foundation of trust while demonstrating that they care. Consider every interaction crucial, particularly the first impression because we make many important decisions about a person in the first seven seconds of meeting them, with the power of nonverbal cues overriding anything we say.

10. Follow through on your promises

Strong communicators ensure their actions match their words. Don't just make a promise -- follow through on it. Your ability to do this over time will help you earn the trust of others and build a solid reputation.

To climb the corporate ladder, you must be able to communicate your ideas strategically and clearly, building trust and motivating people to action. In the words of James Humes, speechwriter for presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush "The art of communication is the language of leadership."

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