These are the five key enablers for engineers to be effective communicators. Like a chain, these enablers are only as strong as the weakest link. Engineers should work concurrently to improve all five enablers.
Understand Soft Skills and Hard Skills
Hard skills are technical in nature. These skills are essential for effectively performing specific tasks or functions. Some of the most common hard skills are data analysis, engineering design, computer programming, financial analysis, and web development.
Communication skills, teamwork (collaboration), adaptability, time management, and emotional intelligence are some examples of soft skills. Soft skills are also known as people skills or social skills. The key to relating well with others usually starts with understanding yourself.
Differentiate Between Three Major Communication Models
The three conceptual models of communication are the Linear Model, the Interactive Model, and the Transactional Model. Each model progressively builds on the previous one. These models help optimize effective information exchange in different contexts.
Develop Specific Communication Approaches
An approach refers to a way of doing something. The choice of approach depends on the context, the specific goals or challenges at hand, and the available resources. Different situations may require different approaches. People and organizations often adapt and combine various approaches to achieve the best results.
Philosophies are for philosophers, theories are for academics, and approaches are for practitioners.
When it comes to business communication, different approaches are needed for emergency response, day-to-day operations, strategic issues, collaborating in teams, and communication with the public.
Apply FINESSE and CATER
FINESSE is a cause-and-effect communication approach for strategic issues. This approach helps engineers communicate as trusted advisors to senior management, the board of directors, or other decision makers. FINESSE is grounded in the Linear Model.
CATER is a mental model for team collaboration. This approach helps facilitate teams of professionals from different disciplines who are addressing the same problems. CATER is often used in collaborative efforts such as root cause analysis, business cases, risk management plans, reliability or quality assessments, material plans, and strategic plans. CATER builds on FINESSE. The approach is grounded in the Interactive Model.
Sort Through Thousands of Communication Tips
Technical professionals benefit from a formal communication approach that considers the unique requirements of their role, provides consistency, and allows for continuous improvement. A formal communication approach helps navigate various scenarios and effectively adapt.
Charlie Lau had a different approach to hitting a baseball than did Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams. But both approaches produced great hitters in the right contexts.
Dave Ramsey's “Baby Steps” approach is different than Suze Orman’s or Warren Buffett’s approaches to managing money and financial independence. However, all three approaches work in different contexts.
The main point is that there are thousands of communication tips. Not all tips apply in every situation. The context and the communication approach need to be established first. Then, the relevant tips can be applied.
How Engineers Apply It
Understanding the five enablers is one part of the solution. The next two important parts are training and application. Communicating with FINESSE helps engineers with understanding and training. Our before- and after-action tools assist with building confidence and improvement.
Communicating with FINESSE is a not-for-profit community of technical professionals dedicated to being highly effective communicators and facilitators. Learn more about our publications, webinars, and workshops. Join the community for free.