GROW

These 3 Billionaires Agree: You Need This 1 Critical Skill to Be Successful

If Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates said it — case closed.

Share on
BY Marcel Schwantes - 13 Jun 2017

Forbes\

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In my work coaching executives and entrepreneurs, communication issues are common and annoying blips on their radar screen. Too much of it, not enough of it, wrong messages being sent through non-verbal communication, communication that affects work morale, employee engagement, branding strategy -- the list seems endless.

But one thing is for sure: Every single one of them agrees that communication, whether interpersonal or organizational, is a necessity to the success of their business.

In fact, the world's most successful billionaire entrepreneurs have already declared its importance. Here's a refresher if you're just joining the conversation, with a twist from a recent interview I conducted at the end.

Gates on Communication

Nearly a decade ago now, in a BBC News article with the headline, "Bill Gates: The skills you need to succeed," the Microsoft billionaire co-founder said, "Communication skills and the ability to work well with different types of people are very important...software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs."

Fast forward to more recent times, the story hasn't changed. Billionaire entrepreneurs Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, and other thought-leaders agree.

Branson on Communication

In his own Virgin blog post where he lists his top 10 quotes on communication, Richard Branson writes, "Communication makes the world go round. It facilitates human connections, and allows us to learn, grow and progress. It's not just about speaking or reading, but understanding what is being said -- and in some cases what is not being said. Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess. (emphasis mine)

Buffett on Communication

We all know that Warren Buffett is a quote machine for his astonishing wisdom. But this one takes the cake. Patrick O'Shaughnessy, author of Millennial Money: How Young Investors Can Build a Fortune, shared a unique quote by Buffett on his blog that I have not personally seen anywhere else (after an extensive Google search).

On the importance of communicating well, Buffett recently told a a graduate student earning his MBA at Stanford this little gem:

At your age the best way you can improve yourself is to learn to communicate better. Your results in life will be magnified if you can communicate them better. The only diploma I hang in my office is the communications diploma I got from Dale Carnegie in 1952.

Buffett continues,

Without good communication skills you won't be able to convince people to follow you even though you see over the mountain and they don't.

World-renowned author, speaker and leadership guru Brian Tracy says, "Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85 percent of your success in your business and in your life." Tracy built his legacy primarily by helping leaders and business owners thrive by mastering the skills of persuasiveness and building relationships.

Research on Communication Agrees

Forbes reports compelling research conducted by the Carnegie Institute of Technology that shows a shocking 15 percent of financial success actually comes from knowledge or technical skills. The other 85 percent, you ask? The ability to effectively communicate, negotiate and lead, both when speaking and listening.

Additionally, Forbes reports, "Nobel Prize winning Israeli-American psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust rather than someone they don't, even if the likeable person is offering a lower quality product or service at a higher price."

Finally, Watch Your Word Count

Good communicators know what to say and how to say it, paying close attention to who their listener is, and what situation they're in. One size does not fit all.

I end with a twist on communication you've probably never heard before, also drawing from science.

In her latest book, Image Scrimmage, Donna Van Natten, the Body Language Dr., references intriguing research about the "optimal rate" of words we should use when speaking.

As it turns out, a typical listener processes between 170 and 190 words per minute. That means, if we use fewer than 170 words per minute, we are less dynamic and our listener will zone out.

But that's not nearly as important as using more than 190 words per minute, especially if the topic is about complex work stuff like budgets and algorithms. In that case, she says "slow down and seek comprehension"-- otherwise your listener is headed for the deer-in-the-headlights look. At worse, Van Natten says if you use more than 210 words per minute, expect the listener to abandon the conversation and run for the hills.

The takeaway here? For most learners and people processing new information, good communicators slow things down so the listener doesn't lose them; for everyday conversations and written content in which no new information is being introduced, good communicators speed things up.