Saturday, 30 July 2016

Communication Pitfalls That Sabotage Your Career And Business

You probably think—no believe—that you're a good communicator.

If asked to give examples of instances whereby you displayed excellent communication skills, you could reel off a couple: from answering difficult interview questions with confidence, and delivering excellent speeches or presentations, to constructing persuasive emails/letters/proposals at work.

And you'd be right. In those situations, good communication skills led to the desired results.

Nonetheless, we've all veered off the straight and narrow path to good communication. Some common communication faux pas include these eight bad communication habits which we should break because they negate perceptions of our professionalism.

But are you aware of the communication mishaps which slowly undermine your career, or as an entrepreneur, limit your business growth? They could be insidious and unless pointed out by trusted colleagues/business partners so that you could rectify them, they'll cost you promotions or valuable opportunities.

Note that you're unknowingly ruining your career or your business by:

1) Not prioritising active listening

We all know that good listening skills are essential at work. Active listening communicates a sense of worth. We all crave attention. Therefore, when we believe that we're listened to, we become more convinced that our contributions are appreciated. This in turn, increases our discretionary efforts, leading to increased engagement. Employee engagement, as has been reported, leads to increased productivity as explained in the short video below.


But listening must be done the right way. Researchers revealed an interesting take on the art of listening in an article posted on the Harvard Business Review website. They determined that simply listening in silence, only to regurgitate what was said, does not constitute good listening. Instead, listening and asking meaningful questions promote insight. There's also good advice given on how to engage with the speaker and explanations about how the different levels of listening should be handled.

So if you're not actively listening to your company when management articulates what is expected from you in the long-term, you're doing yourself a disservice. Don't be surprised when your boss doesn't recommend you for plump assignments or when you're not singled out for promotions.

As an entrepreneur, active listening will help you to formulate strategies and provide exceptional customer services, leading to increased sales. Not prioritising this skill will be detrimental to your business, especially as a startup. Not only will you need to rally your team to achieve a common goal, but valuable insights will be stifled if team members feel unappreciated because you don't truly listen to them. This fact will become evident when you fail to address lingering concerns. Eventually, they would stop caring altogether and your business will suffer from the significant brain drain.

Remember that hearing is not the same thing as listening.

2) Not handling constructive feedback effectively

In a post on feedback, I declared that for feedback to be effective, it had to be timely and factual. I also distinguished between two groups of people who don't give feedback. In the first group are the 'Ostrich' people - these are folks who don't want to be the bearers of bad news, thus they avoid giving unfavourable feedback. In the second camp, the 'What's-In-It-For-Me' people feel entitled and don't give feedback unless they have a vested interest in the  recipients' circumstances. Professionals in both groups automatically sabotage their careers because their behaviours cause others to view them as untrustworthy, unreliable and incompetent.

Feedback, as we all know, is crucial for the effectiveness of people and by extension, processes. For the organisational wheel to function properly, feedback must be consistently provided. Still, when it comes to constructive feedback, we don't relish our mistakes being highlighted.

Now you may think that it's easier to give feedback than to receive it. But think about how awkward it will be for example, to tell your boss that his error cost your company millions; and how uncomfortable you'll feel suggesting steps he could take to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

Did you cringe?

No, constructive feedback is not always pleasant but it is necessary.

So why do we loathe feedback?

Some research suggests that the fear of giving or receiving feedback may be all in our heads; that there is a psychological component to this fearBacked by science, the article explains that we tend to avoid constructive feedback because of a fight-or-flight bias (caused by hormones), even though we're not in any physical danger. We also remember criticisms more sharply. Suggestions given to overcome this fear of feedback are changing mindsets and altering behaviours.

As a professional or business owner, avoiding 'harsh' feedback does you no good. Problems cannot be wished away, nor can mistakes be undone. As long as you're convinced of the credibility of the person giving the constructive feedback, you should have faith that information given is in your best interest, and should at least consider reasonable advice.

What should be ignored are personal attacks or groundless criticisms which neither address the problems nor offer useful solutions.


To accelerate your professional development, include active listening in your communication arsenal and readily give/accept constructive feedback.

People who matter at work and in your business circles will notice the change when you become a more competent and grounded professional. As a result, confidence in your abilities will abound, leading to more opportunities.

And that's a promise.

If you enjoyed this post don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:

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Need help with improving your communication skills?

Hire me for:

-Communications  training  sessions  for  your staff and executives;

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc);

-Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.

  Let me help you get results.

 Contact me:  

   A) Send an email to:

  B) Call for a free consultation:
 Nigeria:            0704 631 0592
 International:  +234 704 631 0592    


N.B -  First, second and third images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via Last image courtesy of Bplanet; via

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Solving The Crisis Of Poor Communication Skills In Nigeria

With this post, I probably won't win any brownie points in this country but the truth must be told.

As Nigerians, we're not in denial about many truths - endemic corruption in the public sector; epileptic power supply; chronic unemployment; and the slow or non-existent dividends of democracy such as equity, good governance and the effective rule of law. Yet, we're clueless about our inability to communicate effectively as professionals. This fact is evident not only in the ridiculous speeches given by our leaders, but also in the error-ridden content printed by our newspapers or in other media.

I'll thus take my cue from a quote by Ernest Hemingway, beloved American author and Pulitzer Prize winner, who gave sound advice for writer's block:

"Write the truest sentence that you know."

And for years, I have mulled over what I consider the appalling rate at which our ability to communicate has deteriorated, as easily illustrated in our public speaking, but more excruciatingly, in our writing.

Although the point below is not about writer's block, it is the truest sentence that I know as a communications coach and advocate, about our ability to communicate professionally:

Nigerians suffer from a crisis of poor communication skills.

Specifically, we most struggle with two of the three types of communication: the oral and the written. Nonetheless, we could become more competent communicators if  we acknowledge the problems below and strive for change.

Problem #1: Much a-speak about nothing

Nigerians love to talk.

Or rather, we love to hear the sounds of our own voices.

So we waffle on.

Politicians, industry leaders, youth representatives, team players, religious personalities, etc. - we do it in small gatherings, in public arenas and on television. We rarely get to the point on time. We also use big, redundant words/phrases to impress. Let's also not forget the Nigerian way of reeling off our titles as our identities when introduced in public: 'Barrister A B'; 'Engineer C D'; or 'Architect X Y'. Non-Nigerians would have a good laugh at our expense every time this happens. 

In the business setting, we love to use jargon and other annoying examples of corporate-speak such as 'leverage', 'paradigm shift' and 'striking while the iron is hot'. I'm sure we'll identify many of our faux pas mentioned in the video below.

Now you may say that we're no worse off than professionals in other countries.


But because other people are doing it, doesn't give us the pass to remain complacent. 


First, let's realise that we tend to sprout lengthy, often meaningless utterances in public. Why don't we aim for simplicity, brevity and clarity instead in all our communications...beginning with the way we speak?

Next comes the education of public speaking. We can take some courses; go online and watch some TED talks to study others who have perfected the art; or listen to charismatic figures on radio, television, at work, and during various events. 

A good example of an effective talk is the speech below given at the Bpifrance Inno Generation Event  by Nigeria's renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu. Note his use of simple language, his comfortable poise, and his clear message about using 'africapitalism' to change the negative narrative about Africa.    

To speak convincingly in public, we should imitate what we admire the most from others—such as how to use presence, pitch, tone, pauses etc.—to create impact and influence our audiences.

Finally, we must practise and continue to do so, even after we are told that we have improved. Public speaking is more than just getting up/sitting down and blabbering about whatever comes to mind. It's an art that we should strive to master.

Problem #2: Weak, inept writing


It is everywhere.

We break so many grammatical rules that often, entire sentences don't make sense.

There's also a predisposition to ‘nigerianise’ the English language. And because after secondary school, few of us took refresher courses in grammar, over time, the wrong terms became widespread and easily accepted.

Case in point:

1) What is good for the goose is good for the gander. (Nigerian English) 


What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. (Standard idiom) 

2) The soup should be cooked until the desired doneness is achieved. (Nigerian English) 


The soup should be well cooked/cooked thoroughly. (Standard English)  

3) "You're not going to work today?"

"Yes"/"Yes I'm not going". (Nigerian English)


"No"/"No I'm not going". (Standard English) 

4) "Please borrow me some money". (Nigerian English)


"Please lend me some money". 
(Standard English)

And so it continues.

Other problems in writing are: not adhering to basic subject-verb agreement; wrong word choice when choosing synonyms, (words having similar meanings i.e. big/colossal, laughable/absurd); and confusion with homonyms, (words sounding the same but having different meanings i.e. son/sun, lunch/launch), etc. 

Let's not even get into the misuse of certain punctuation - with the comma (,), colon (:), semi-colon (;) and the apostrophe ('), being the most abused. 

Then there's the issue of excessive capitalisation. This is the single most prevalent grammatical error I see - in emails and newspapers; in formal contracts and in content online; on vans/trucks/busses; and on television.

It is really a scourge.

Some examples of unnecessary capitalisation  are underlined below:

Over 90 per cent of the nation's foreign exchange is derived from the Nigerian Oil & Gas sector...

Our company, ABC Limited, is into Trading, Manufacturing, Banking...

We are Resellers of imported merchandise...  

During my coaching sessions, I've noticed with concern, the excessive use of capitalisation in the work of different MBA participants - from the younger, full-time MBA students, to the senior professionals in the executive batches.

Given that such educated and well-rounded professionals reflect the society, I've come to realise that unfortunately, the root of our weak writing is twofold:

A) Poor reading culture

We simply stopped reading good material—well-written books by respected authors, plays, short stories, articles, white papers etc.—after school. Instead, we've developed an unhealthy appetite for poorly-written content, readily available on social media.

Be honest. When was the last time you read a good book? What about reading classics such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo?

We need to read to feed our brains, to expand our vocabulary and to sharpen our writing.

B) Laziness/unwillingness to brush up on grammar and to practise writing

We can't realistically expect to remember all the grammatical rules we memorised at school. Moreover, language evolves over time and as professionals, we must keep abreast of the changes.

We've become lazy and/or unwilling to do the work. Not only do we need to take some lessons in grammar but we should practise business writing at every opportunity we get, especially at work. 


We should sign up for business writing training and use tips given on how to improve our writing chops. Let's also develop a habit of reading good content to increase our knowledge of the English language.

The Lagos Business School offers MBA programmes and executive courses for professionals at different stages in their careers. A useful module in both the full-time MBA and Executive MBA courses, Management Communications, offers effective support and coaching for oral and written communications. It's worth some consideration.  


Yes, there is a crisis of sorts of poor communication in this country. But this crisis can be contained, and with the right strategy, solved...only if we become open to change.

The good news is that Nigeria is blessed with ample intellectual capital. This is why we excel in various fields abroad.

Therefore, even though we  may often fall short in public speaking and writing, we could become more confident communicators by using advice given in this post. 

 Who's with me?

   If  you  enjoyed  this post don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:   

-Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.

-Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles.


   Hire me for:

-Communications training sessions for your staff and executives;

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc);

-Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.

  Let me help you get results. 


Contact me:

A) Send an email to:

B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:           0704 631 0592
International:  +234 704 631 0592  


N.B- First image courtesy of Criminalatt; via Second image courtesy of Master Isolated Images; via Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via