A dear friend of mine through the years, Roger Singletary, had a unique way of understanding what was important to him and following through to keep that focus.
Roger worked for a number of years as a high-end consultant for very large, every expensive software projects. An engagement would require he work at a client’s offices in another city for weeks. As he completed more of these projects, he was in a financial situation where he could be more selective and could assert his own preferences too. He admitted to me that some of his own preferences he asked for were added to the contracts although it would have not been a problem if the weren’t. But there was no harm in asking as part of the negotiations.
On one such project, other consultants noticed that Roger was required at far fewer meetings than everyone else. Finally, someone asked, “Why don’t you have to go to all of these meetings like we do?” Roger said, “Oh, I charge double for meetings.” And he did. It was in his contract and it meant that when he was not really needed for a meeting, he was left undisturbed to focus on his primary project tasks. He got more work done than everyone else, a value to him and to the client.
On another project, Roger, who loved to dress casual, knew the office work environment would be very traditional and business formal. A coat and tie place. On site, Roger never wore a tie and no one asked for him to wear one. Why? In negotiations, he said he would be glad to wear a tie every day if it was required but it would be ten dollars an hour more. (He later admitted to me that he said it as a joke but in the final contract, there it was in writing.) Apparently the requirement was not so, um, required. It just took Roger pushing the envelope a little to find out if this was really important to the client or not.
So how does this all fit into the idea of improving our effective communication? Focus. Roger knew his priorities and would focus on these and follow through.
Any task you wish to accomplish, including improving communication skills, will benefit from focus and consistent understanding of what you want to accomplish. And an understanding that just because something is “how it has always been done” does not mean that is how it always has to be.