Monday, October 27, 2008

October 27, 2008 – Back to the Basic: Communication – How

Once, in the midst of a long distance relationship I had the grand idea of sending a Western Union Telegram to my girlfriend. From my vast knowledge of telegrams, based solely on movies and TV, I knew that every time you put a period they say "STOP" to indicate the end of the sentence. I envisioned a hand delivered envelop with the words “Don’t STOP loving me and I won’t STOP loving you” on Western Union paper. I think they took my $20 and placed a phone call instead that incoherently said "Don't loving me and I won't loving you."

Telegrams were a great way to express you feelings in the 1800’s but by the 1980’s it was out dated. Sometimes you know what to say and when to say it but fail to be heard because of how you choose to say it.

How to be Heard. When deciding how to get your message out, you need to consider both the method and content.

The method does matter. There are the normal methods:

  • Phone. Great for quick answers and to give initial direction. Not so good for detailed instructions or approvals.
  • Voice Mail. Excellent for letting people know you called and for playing phone tag. Don’t rely on it to guarantee the message was conveyed or that action will be taken.
  • Instant Messaging. Good tool to exchange ideas and verify progress.
  • Email. Reliable for giving more detailed instructions and receiving approval. Not very personal and can lead to chaos when everyone replies to everyone else.
  • Teleconference. When your team is half way around the world, email doesn’t cut it. It can take 2 days to convey a message. Scheduling a teleconference can clarify the conversation quickly.
  • Webex / GoToMeeting. Web meeting tools that allow you to share your desktop information make it possible for you to run your business from practically anywhere.
  • Get out of your seat. The personal touch allows you to observe the non-verbal aspects of communication like body language, eye contact, gestures and facial expressions. When other methods fail, it may be worth the trip down the hall or across the world.
  • Video Conference. The next best thing to being there. Setting up a web cam on both ends of the world can be relatively cheap and net big benefits.

Sometimes you have to think beyond the normal to get your message across.

  • Go Big. The company I work for owns a plotter for printing poster size images. Some statements need to be loud. Skywriting might be a little much.
  • Websites / SharePoint. A central location for communicating project updates is a great means to keep the team, management, end users and other key stakeholder informed.
  • Hand Written. In an age of electronic everything, sometimes the best communication is a hand written note. It can be a card of encouragement, a sticky note of thanks or a message on the whiteboard.

Content clarifies. Here are some simple things that will help get you heard clearer.

  • Check the Spelling. I recently received a high glossy postcard from my insurance company. They spelled the word “their” wrong…twice. It doesn’t instill a large amount of confidence in the company.
  • Reread it for clarity. Some sentences make their own nonsense…like this one. Often I review what I think is brilliant writing and find it muddled.
  • Shorten it. As you reread, look for simpler, more concise ways to communicate your thoughts.

In the end, you need to merge the What, When and How to get your message across.

By the way, that long distance relationship? We just passed our 19th wedding anniversary.


MIchael Deutch said...

Thomas, Great post. Another great way to 'say it' is through a mind-map. A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words! Seriously though, many have used Mindjet MindManager to plan, present and sell their ideas to teams, stakeholders and clients. And when you deliver it in person, it's even more powerful. You can capture team feedback right in your map, navigate quickly to the areas that your audience is concerned about and you could transform it into other formats like PowerPoint, Word, PDF, even Project Plans.

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