Your communication skills can make the difference between success and failure in business

The role that good communication skills play in business success is often overlooked

Image: Supplied/Wits Plus

A Scientific American blog on the role of luck in success argues that we can learn to be successful by reading about successful people, mentioning the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes and Entrepreneur.

The blog reads: “There is a deep underlying assumption … that we can learn from them because it's their personal characteristics - such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence - that got them where they are today.

“This assumption doesn’t only underlie success magazines, but also how we distribute resources in society, from work opportunities to fame to government grants to public policy decisions. We tend to give out resources to those who have a past history of success, and tend to ignore those who have been unsuccessful, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.”

While not discounting the role that luck or family inheritance and reputation might play in success, consider the importance of good communication skills in business. If you cannot express yourself well, your proposal will be unsuccessful. If your business plan is full of grammatical errors, even if the financials add up and you can show a history of success, you are less likely to get the funding you’re after.

There are many examples where stronger communication skills can make the difference between success and failure. If a junior data processor bypasses her line manager to email another manager for input on a project but is not clear about what she needs from him, she won’t get her job done. Fortunately, this lack of clarity in her emails can be overcome by improving her business communication skills.

Effective business emails need to be short and to the point, with specific detail, especially if a request or instruction is given. The reader cannot be expected to do anything if they do not know what is actually being requested. It may be a simple case of giving the label names of the data batches, as in this example, but often managers grumble about staff being incompetent or lazy when the problem is poor communication skills and an inability to use email efficiently.

The best part of this solution is that it does not rely on luck. Everyone has an innate ability to improve their communication skills. There are short courses that take only a few hours a week for a couple of months that cover well-researched theories and techniques so that these can be applied strategically in personal and professional situations.

The Wits Plus Effective Business Communication short course aims to equip students with tools to make the most of opportunities available to them. Studies have shown that the most talented people are not the most successful in life, but that luck and opportunity may play an unseen role in that success. Excellent communication skills are key to making the most of opportunities and breaking through to success.

Visit Wits Plus, Centre for Part Time Studies and Wits DigitalCampus, call 011 717 9510 or email for more information.


About Wits Plus

Wits Plus, the Centre for Part-Time Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, offers selected undergraduate degrees as well as a wide range of short courses. Evening classes make all qualifications accessible to working people. Wits Plus also offers a growing range of online short courses that enable you to study when it suits you.

About the author: Nicky Lowe is a Wits Plus lecturer in business communication.

This article was paid for by Wits Plus.