Effective communication is extremely important in business. Not only do we want to send clear marketing messages to our customers--and customers to be--but we need to make sure that we build and maintain clear lines of communication with the members of our team.

Although most every leader knows the importance of communication for the success of their organization, their people, and themselves, a surprising number of leaders fail in this vital skill. According to a recent survey by Manpower and DDI, only 10 percent of frontline leaders are effective at conveying performance expectations, and facilitating clear agreement on next steps.

This is a problem.

According to Dr. Loretta Malandro, founder and CEO of The Malandro Consulting Group, and author of the book Speak Up, Show Up, and Stand Out, becoming a powerful communicator is possible by following 9 commonsense, but essential rules.

Rule 1: Be 100% accountable--rise above circumstances

Identify your bad communication habits (yes, we all have them!), admit that you engage in them, and then replace them with habits that are effective. For example, if you have the habit of playing with your smartphone when members of your team come to you with questions, own the behavior, and then change it--by putting away that smartphone when you're talking with others in your business.

Rule 2: Check your interpretation--confront your assumptions

It's easy to think we're being productive when we actually are not. Far too many meetings are a big waste of time, and an ongoing flood of email messages can quickly bury us. Understand that longer meetings are not necessarily better meetings, that an instant response to a bunch of email messages is not necessarily the best response, and that your preferred method of communication may not work for others.

Rule 3: Make expectations clear--don't expect others to read your mind

No one that I know has a working crystal ball. Your people can't read your mind, and you can't expect them to know what your expectations are if you aren't communicating them clearly and often. Do just that, and your people will be much more effective and productive.

Rule 4: Create positive partnerships--stop negative talk

Instead of tearing people down, build them up. When you hear employees and customers complaining about something, there's probably a reason for it. Check it out, create positive partnerships with your people and customers, and then work together to develop lasting solutions.

Rule 5: Speak up--stop holding yourself back

When you speak up, you'll build your confidence, which will enable you to become more effective and a powerful agent of change. When you stop holding yourself back, you'll become more influential and have a real effect on the organization, and on your people and customers.

Rule 6: Commit or do not commit--don't hedge

Be known as someone who is communicates in a forthright, honest, and straightforward way. While you don't want to be cruel, you'll be far more effective when you "tell it like it is," instead of beating around the bush and equivocating.

Rule 7: Own the problem--don't blame or make excuses

Instead of looking for someone to blame for mistakes or problems, focus on looking for solutions.

Rule 8: Recover quickly and come back stronger--stop defending yourself

We all make mistakes--it's a given in life and in business. However, when we get all defensive about them, then we're not moving forward. Acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, then bounce back and try again.

Rule 9: Be precise--avoid word traps that derail you

How you say things is often as important as what you say. Using generalizations ("ALL our customers hate that idea."), depersonalizing your message (Using "We" instead of "I" or "You."), softening your message (Saying "I guess," or "I wish."), and other word traps listed in Malandro's book can derail your communication. Avoid them.