Upskill your credit union’s communication skills with the three Cs

Are you a good communicator? Most people would likely answer yes to that question. After all, we communicate all day long—through phone calls, texts, emails, video conferencing and, of course, in-person interactions. However, being an effective communicator in business requires a much higher level of proficiency than communicating in our personal lives. Ongoing training to boost proficiency is essential, but too often, training is lacking—or not offered at all.

In my consulting work with credit unions, I have discovered that communication is among the top three most needed but least developed skills. When assessing talent development, I see plenty of job descriptions that list communication as one of the top skill requirements. Yet when I ask credit union leaders what kind of plan they have for developing communication skills, most will say they don’t have one.

This is a deficiency that I highly recommend be corrected. If you identify communication as an essential skill, you should have a plan to train for it. Use workshops, webinars, coaching and mentoring to target improvement in communication and other soft skills. Offer employees tips and strategies they can implement for additional improvement on their own.

Using the three “Cs”

The goal of effective communication is to facilitate understanding, collaboration and the achievement of business objectives. Focus on these three “Cs” of communication to improve how effectively you deliver your message.

  1. Speak or write clearly so that people understand what you’re trying to say.
  2. Be succinct and to the point. Don’t ramble. Otherwise, your message might get lost in an excess of words.
  3. Connect your message to what is meaningful to the listener or reader. People need to understand not only what you’re saying but why it matters.

Your verbal and written communication skills can benefit from putting the three “Cs” in action. Here are some suggestions for using them effectively.

Verbal communication skills

Clarity in verbal communication depends greatly on your voice. Pay attention to your tone and rate of speech. Consider your audience; often what is clear to one audience may be confusing or offensive to another. Don’t speak too loudly or too quickly (or conversely, too softly or slowly). Don’t mumble or speak in a monotone. Use inflection to emphasize your points. Speak articulately and use correct vocabulary.

Conciseness and context are key to achieving clear and persuasive communication. To improve your verbal communication, create an outline of what you intend to say. The more you “wing it,” the harder it will be to stay on message.

Written communication skills

Using proper spelling, grammar and punctuation are basic requirements to enhance clarity in all forms of written communication. You may have a great message to share, but if your writing is riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors, the effectiveness of that message will not come across. Also, focus the most important points at the beginning of the message; burying the lead is never a good idea.

Best practices in written communication vary depending upon the format you’re using. If you’re writing a text or an email, being concise takes precedence. If you’re writing a project proposal or annual report, context takes on greater significance.

Here are a few tips to improve your writing in a variety of formats.

  • Use spell check to ensure that you have no spelling or grammar errors. Use AI tools such as Grammarly or ChatGPT at your discretion, but do so in accordance with your corporate guidelines. Always do a thorough edit/review of the generated text to make sure the content, tone and message are your own.
  • In writing emails, remember that shorter is better. However, an email is not a text, so don’t use alternate spellings (i.e., “ur” when you mean “your”). Keep your email conversational but professional. Try to stick to one topic. If you need to address another topic, save it for another email.
  • For lengthy reports and proposals, prioritize readability. Use an easy-to-read font, paragraph breaks and subheads to guide the reader through the text. When appropriate, use numbered or bullet-pointed lists to make the content easier to digest.
  • Have someone proofread or edit your writing to catch typos and point out when something is unclear.

Nonverbal communication skills

In addition to using the three “Cs,” you can improve verbal communication by understanding how body language and facial expressions can enhance or detract from your message. Making eye contact, maintaining good posture and gesturing with open palms are all positive ways to connect with the listener.

Conversely, be conscious of sending a negative message with nonverbal actions. As an example, slouching in your chair may indicate boredom or disinterest in the conversation. Folding your arms may communicate defensiveness or anger. Rolling your eyes may show disbelief or disdain. Sending these nonverbal messages will detract from the conversation and impede effective communication. Always remember your audience and what they might find offensive.

If you notice negative nonverbal communication signals when you are speaking to others, don’t be insulted. Instead, use the listener’s poor posture or lack of eye contact as an indication that you need to work harder to keep their interest. That type of immediate feedback will be useful as you seek to do a better job in keeping your listener alert and engaged.

Developing and improving communication skills

Take steps to develop and improve your verbal, written and nonverbal communication skills.

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Communication is like anything else. If we want to get better at it, we need to practice. Practice writing. Practice speaking. Practice active listening.
  2. Focus on writing and speaking with clarity, conciseness and context. Outline a message that includes an introduction, main points and conclusion.
  3. Use 360 feedback to improve. Find someone you know and trust, either a colleague or a friend, to give you feedback.
  4. Set personal goals. Work with your leader to create a professional development plan that targets improvement in your communication skills. Assess where you are, and ask yourself: What do I need to do to get better? Keeping in mind the three “Cs,” outline specific steps that will help you achieve your goals.

Does your credit union need a plan for improving communication? Please reach out if you’d like to talk about a plan.


Contact CUES

Contact CUES

Lesley Sears

Lesley Sears

Stepping into the gap between corporate complacency and organizational excellence is where Lesley Sears strives to be. Now VP/consulting services for CUES. In her role at CUES, Lesley leads ... Web: Details