Communication is Decision: Decide before You Act. No matter wherever you go, whatever career you pursue, whichever you sector you work in, communication skills will always help you in achieving success. You may have great thoughts, but unless you effectively express and persuasively communicate to your superiors, colleagues or subordinates at work, these ideas alone will not serve any purpose of yours. In financial sectors, you will often have to communicate complex information to others. Your skill to connect with your stakeholders, i.e. colleagues, customers, etc., can be as important as your technical expertise. If you are an entrepreneur, you may have to connect with a range of professionals that may include investors, bankers, regulators and so on, on one hand, and employees, customers and partners on the other.
Communication is Decision: Decide before You Act
As you take on a leadership role in your organization, communication will capture most of your active space. The higher you rise in an organization, the less time you will spend using the technical skills and the more time you will spend only communicating. Top executives spend most of their time communicating, and those who know how to effectively communicate have a chance to be among the top management. In fact, improving your communication skills may be the single most important step you can take in your career. There are too many people who know and understand their profession better, but the number of people who know how to communicate effectively are few. Use this as an opportunity to compete. Effective communication skills are the most fundamental skills that employers from all sectors will look for in their employees
Chartered accountants require skills beyond their technical skills, e.g. leadership and management, risk management, entrepreneurship, communication and interpersonal skills, etc., in order to shine in this economy as leaders. Transparency, responsibility and accountability are in their genes, since they inherit these merits from their CA education and training. They know how to compete and comply at the same time. Then, these qualities help the chartered accountants in attaining effective decision-making skills and formulating responsible strategies. Now, they require effective communication skills in order to shine in the role that demands skills beyond their core professional ones. Using them, they can effectively deliver business advice and strategies with clarity to people within organization and their external clients too. These days, chartered accountants frequently communicate either through email or Communication is Decision— Decide before You Act Dr. N.K. Ranjan telephone, explain over the phone or in a one-on-one meeting, or at times present using PowerPoint
Therefore, chartered accountants need to be competent in communication skills in order to compete with the professionals globally. Accountancy profession is not so simple today and the demands from chartered accountants have turned quite complex. They are using a variety of written and oral channels to communicate instructions, thank-you letters, formal reports, etc. Forensic accountants have to essentially prepare long but effective legal reports. Probably that is why, these days, the recruiters stress over the requirement of effective communication skills (both written and oral). Nowadays, organizations themselves arrange for their employees’ training in communication skills, either in house or by hiring experts.
Observe an example
Imagine a situation between a senior partner (CA. Smita Thakkar) and her article clerk (Kamal Kulkarni) in a CA firm, where Smita approaches Kamal’s desk towards the end of the day. Following communication takes place:
Good evening, Madam!
Good evening, Kamal. So, everything is fine? (I hope he remembers the audit tomorrow.)
(Do you remember the audit?)
Are you prepared for the audit tomorrow? (You have to give me the status, Kamal. Come on.)
We will go to audit the hotel tomorrow.
Fine. Are you prepared? (I should not worry about anything. The job will be done. Everything is perfect.)
Yes. Do not worry, Madam. Everything is fine. Since Anurag Sir was not in station, I have sent him an email about this schedule. In fact, I sent him an SMS too.
OK. Audit will start on time then. What do you say? (Fine. Nobody doubts Anurag’s sincerity. But what if he doesn’t get to see your email or SMS… Oh God! It is a risky situation. Let us hope…)
Yes, Madam. Anurag Sir will definitely reach the hotel in time and, I think, tomorrow, we will complete the audit on schedule.
(This doesn’t seem to be fine. What will happen if Anurag doesn’t join him tomorrow at the hotel?)
Kamal’s speech is in bold; Smita’s is not bold while the text in italics indicates her thoughts
When Kamal informs his boss Smita that he and Anurag (another partner and Kamal’s immediate boss) will reach the venue in time for the audit, Smita realizes that the team is ready for the job and that everything is fine. But soon after, she gets worried after Kamal informs her that though he is yet to hear from Anurag vis-à-vis the job, he is sure that Anurag would join him the next day, since he has sent the message to Anurag through e-mail as well as SMS. Smita is doubtful now, since Anurag has not come back on Kamal’s message yet. She is worried if anything goes wrong, clients might turn their back on her. This was her firm’s first assignment with them. She cannot take any chance but it is equally correct that she cannot do anything at the moment, since rest of the firm’s partners including Smita are blocked for tomorrow. It is already late evening. Anurag’s phone is unreachable. He might be travelling back. She is not very sure. Who is to blame?
Kamal has been trying his best to behave like a thorough professional throughout since he joined the firm as an articled clerk for training. He has proved himself to the firm time and again that he is a dependable, ethical and positive person. He has got good marks in the Intermediate (IPC) examination and his preparation for the CA Finals is in top swing too. To the best of his efforts and intentions, he has tried to inform Anurag about the tomorrow’s schedule. But if anything goes wrong, will he be blamed for that? He is worried.
Did he go wrong?
Instead of sending an email or an SMS, Kamal could have called up Anurag too, since Anurag’s phone was reachable yesterday. Though Anurag is his boss and he was on personal leave, Kamal could have sent a polite SMS or email talking about the schedule and its urgency, followed by an immediate telephone call. He could have got the confirmation easily. Now, both his communications, i.e. email and SMS, might have reached the target successfully, but he could never be sure if Anurag has seen or read any of them.
Everyday in profession, we come across many such situations, i.e. communication-related business decisions, where we carefully decide our line of action. However, we are not sure if Kamal had thought about despite being quite sincere and serious about the issue: Should I use email, a phone call, or just an SMS to inform Anurag?
Options Create Challenge
Actually, ours is an age of technology and we have got multiple media and channels to communicate. And since the technological advancement has made it so easy for us to communicate, we often make a mistake in selecting our way to communicate. We send SMS, whereas we should have sent an email. We email, whereas we should have called over the phone. We call up over the phone, whereas we should have actually approached in person and communicate faceto-face. We present on PowerPoint, whereas we should have simply talked and discussed. We go to large conference rooms to talk, whereas we should have held the meeting in the cabin itself. We call for a meeting, whereas we should have simply emailed the matter and talked over the phone. We go and cross geographical boundaries for a meeting, whereas a video-conferencing could have done the job.
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You can see: as professionals we may have multiple options available before us, but we can never have a choice to just pick any of them or many of them. We will have to be very careful about the selection process, since it is a business decision and our selection will affect the nature and degree of outcomes. Communication is that way a decision-making process. We decide to communicate since we want some job to be done. Since it is a decision, we have to consider all pros and cons considering the job and what we are looking for and want as the outcome. And, all choices of channels of communication channels have their own limitations.
Limitations in Various Channels
In face-to-face, we may get an immediate feedback on our message and can make our communication more effective and make our messages sincere, using our nonverbal cues (gestures, postures, tone, etc.) and emotions, we will never be able to convey complex information and the communication will not have any record, unless recorded. Over telephone, we will face the same limitations as in face-to-face, and additionally, we can never make use of our gestures and postures.
When we decide to write, it gives us space to plan and control our message and we can also avoid immediate feedback and discussions. We give our recipients time to think, plan and respond, and thus make them feel comfortable too in a way. But then, our recipients get too much of ample time to respond genuinely. Since there is no emotion in such channels, we should think twice before we decide over selection of this channel to apologise. A handwritten note will be a better option than an email or a typed letter of apology, in case we feel really uncomfortable in presenting ourselves before our recipients. At times, if the information is too sensitive, we create a permanent record by writing the message and this may be reproduced at unwanted places or moments and bring embarrassing moments to us. Even deleted emails could be recovered and used against the
senders. Over email, although we can quickly deliver our messages and send out multiple messages crossing all geographical boundaries, emails are not secure methods and our confidential data could be forwarded with just a click. Besides spyware, network breaches, etc., are further matters of concern. We can never be sure if the recipient has read our message. Communication expert Nick Morgan1 suggests that emails are best for short, informal messages that need to be both written and read and warns that
Then the globalization and liberalization of economy has created another challenge for professionals. Nowadays, workforce is mostly multicultural, i.e. teams have players with different cultural backgrounds, and this makes the scenario all the more difficult for selection of communication channels and contents. Communication etiquette differs from culture to culture, and therefore in order to make our communication effective, we will have to understand the cultural background of our recipients and be sensitive to that. Humour could be strictly a no-no. It is like a perfume. You never know when and who it will hurt. Experts suggest that we may in fact lightly target ourselves in humour in order to be safe. But that also has its own drawbacks. Our image should not be damaged, even if our recipients do not get our humour
Communicate for Results
Decide when to communicate. Decide who to communicate. Decide what to communicate and decide how to communicate. So basically, we should communicate when the time is right, to the right recipient, sending the right message using the right channel. At times, experts suggest, it should also be decided who should be the sender, even if we draft the message. Depending on the desired impact over the recipient, draft-creators should carefully select their sender(s) too, since ultimately, the success of our message depends on the result we achieve after the communication.