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Communication skills are critical to all aspects of business development. Whether you are considering a new venture or are well down the road and revising your business plan, the ability to exchange and gather information, perhaps in high-stakes crucial conversations, and to express the attributes of your value-added product or service honestly and without bias, can make or break your business.
By their very nature, many farming operations and farmer-led value-added business projects tend toward sole-proprietorships, partnerships and similar models where one person independently makes most of the decisions. Many farmers don’t see the need to communicate and may consider situations that require it unnecessary and avoidable.
This mindset is eventually toxic to any operation, particularly value-added business ventures that require group decision-making, managing complex operations and diverse group dynamics. Across the modern agricultural landscape, to be able to handle changing situations, new technologies and get the greatest advantage from key human relationships, verbal and written communication skills are priceless skill sets.
In a nutshell, effective communication is about learning to carefully listen, analyze, and then clearly present your ideas free from defensive posturing and bias; as well as to recognize and avoid the bad-communication traps laid by others.
There are countless great books and on-line tutorials on crucial conversations, facilitation, leadership, and self-assessment, with a wealth of cutting-edge research, case studies and resources. Take a minute to search these topics, see what you find that resonates with you. Any amount of time that you spend in this area will yield valuable insight into how you and others communicate (--or miscommunicate).
The tutorial Human Communication & Verbal Problem Solving will give you an in-depth look at a few “rules-of-the-road” that can help anyone see how-to and how-not-to approach everyday business dialogs and high-stakes negotiations. For more information on this topic, a sampling of resources is presented below.
Group Communication – Montana State University Extension -- We belong to groups to accomplish objectives. Verbal and non-verbal communication and how the group is organized are critical to success or failure.
Effective Communication for Effective Negotiation - Negotiation Space – Blog with a great deal of information on effective communication for crucial conversations.
Key Aspects of Communication in Negotiation - Oregon State University – Basic checklist of things to consider.
Marketing Communications – Small Business Notes – Basic introduction to how Marketing communications are designed to deliver messages through specific conduits to target audiences.
Effective Communication Tips - George Mason University– Tutorial on effective verbal presentation.
Improving Communications Skills
Loosen up Your Communication Style – HBS Working Knowledge -- If leaders want to connect with all of their staff, they need to combine three styles of effective communication: emotional, factual and symbolic. Here’s how to leverage all three.
Seven Tips for Communicating in Today's Diverse Workplace – HBS Working Knowledge -- Your employees may come from nations all around the world. Seven tips for improving communication in a diverse workplace.
Virtual Communication – HBS Working Knowledge -- Communications skills essential to working within virtual work-groups.
Environmental Interpretation: How to Communicate Persuasively – University of Florida Extension – Nice overview of the process of sharing complicated ideas with a more general audience in a way that furthers adoption of the concepts.
Authentic Writing Starts with Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill - Authentic Writing Provokes -- Most of us are poor listeners; it is a challenge to be a good listener, but good listeners get big rewards.
Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill – University of Missouri Extension -- Listening is the communication skill most of us use the most frequently.
What Can You Do to Try to Improve Your Listening Skills - The Global Post – Short “how-to” on effective listening.
Links checked April 2016.