There are numerous training resources out there that call for communicating more, trying to break down into bits and pieces what communication is and how it should be done properly. So why do we still struggle so much in conveying our messages when we want others to do something for us or, at least, to understand what we’re talking about?
I think I have an idea where we should look in order to make our communication easier and more effective.
In today’s social media age, when technical equipment allows us to be simultaneously in several places (through conference calls, scheduling tools, automatic alerts etc.) it seems like quantity of communicated messages gradually substitutes their quality. This state of affairs contributed to the notion that the more you communicate the better the results of communication are. Almost as if triggering, noise and presence become more important than the impact of communication, its outcome. The truth is that this approach plays an evil trick on those who think that continuous pouring of words is communication. Eventually there is a reality check and a lack of constructive results always surfaces (product not delivered, timelines missed, budgets overrun etc.)
Another misconception is about language itself as communication tool. Have you ever noticed that for some people to have an impact all they need is to say a couple of sentences, while others have to go on and on and still there is no guarantee that their message will get through? Language is without a doubt an extremely important part of any conversation. But I’m sure everyone could recall a colleague who speaks beautifully and …constantly. Would you consider this a great communication? It is not enough to speak eloquently. Great communicator knows to add real value to each interaction not only by pleasing the other party by perfectly phrased sentences, but with additional content.
Having said that, let’s take one step further. In Project Management practice it is very common to use RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulting, and Informational) matrix to manage project stakeholders in order to tailor all communications and make sure no one is left out of the picture. If you are not using this or other similar tool, you still should have a clear classification of all people you are in contact with into two basic categories: the one who need to receive your message for their information only and the ones you need to take an action based on your message (preferably, in a specific way you’ve outlined). Therefore, while there are so many stakeholders, means and channels to engage, there are only two main types of the interaction itself and it is based on one simple parameter, whether you need to influence this person actions or not.
So, to sum up, there are three basic thumb rules to follow if you want your communication skills to shine:
1. Not more, but better
Do I make myself clearer by continuing to communicate?
2. Not more eloquent, but to the point
Do I create a meaningful message with added value or am I just making noise by abusing the language?
3. Is action required or not?
Do I call for action or there’s only a need to inform?
What distinguishes a great communicator from a mediocre one is his ability to listen (and not just to talk), to interpret the messages properly and to build response dedicated to the context. One cannot substitute the quality of communication by quantity. Respect your own time and the time of people you speak with and you’ll notice that your colleagues will become much more responsive and trusting. Today, in our cynical age, no one can earn people’s trust by endless speeches. A great communicator knows to build the communication according to specific audience every single time, because he respects this audience and wants to be respected by it.
As I mentioned before, every manager has a different style of conducting things and it’s the same for communication. One might prefer a very structured approach with recurrent meetings, colorful templates and a strict list of attendees picked one by one, while another one will be perfectly fine with informal contacts, just surfing through connections as the project goes. Both approaches have their rationale though I prefer to find a middle ground between them. However, regardless of the style you choose, communicating your messages successfully is paramount. So let’s try not to overshoot our target by more talking, and instead – make every interaction count by making it clear meaningful.