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Everyone is talking about it – Communications

It’s very much like the weather. It seems to me that we all know what the problem is. For example: we all rely on e-mail more than we should. Blackberry’s are an everyday conversation-killer. So what is the alternative? Why can’t we just go ahead and fix the problem? Maybe what we need are some simple, straightforward concepts to get us focused on what needs to change to make things better….sort of a positive look at things instead of merely complaining.
Two speakers at the recent PMI conference in St.John’s, Newfoundland did exactly that.
The following are some simple communication tips provided to those in attendance for the purpose of helping us improve our communication skills.
1) Don’t let technology get in the way – nothing trumps regular face-to-face meetings. If you send an e-mail to someone in the next cubical, you are doing it wrong. Think about what your communication goal is before you hit send or load up your favourite PowerPoint template. If you need to put complex information in front of a group of people to get them to understand some new concept, maybe you should e-mail a briefing package that has all the data in it prior to the presentation so people can understand your presentation better. Slides full of text that you paraphrase or even worse, read word-for-word (ugh) add no value. Apparently Steve Jobs believed in this adage, and would walk out of presentations as soon as PowerPoint was started up.
2) Understand adult diversity – different people prefer different communication styles. Some people are visual and want to see high-level info-graphics or graphs that summarize the data. Other people want to have ALL the background data and will need to have a briefing package to get them engaged during your presentation. Other people may prefer to simply ask questions and talk to you. What may seem like a perfect presentation package to you, could be completely dismissed by parts of your audience because the medium was wrong….not because of your message. Mix your media and know your audience.
3) Consult early to get engagement – during the conference we did a very interesting interactive exercise during one presentation (I’m a big fan of these by the way). The speaker asked what topics should be covered in next year’s PMI conferences? Groups were formed, ideas were listed and we all voted on the top three. The outcomes were:
a) The organizers had a list of 20+ potential topics generated by people that actually attend these conferences.
b) The organizers could identify potential presenters as they were the people that brought forward the ideas and/or voted for them.
c) Everyone that participated was far more interested in seeing what next year’s line-up of topics was going to be than they were mere minutes before.
The group was not asked when the next conference would be, what the venue would be or how much the conference would cost.
Bottom Line: It all took about 15 minutes.
Consultation does not have to be a protracted, complex or expensive exercise. The analysis of results does not have to take weeks. An excellent ROI is possible even if you only consult a small, targeted group on a limited number of very specific issues. I find it wonderful that engagement is the most valuable outcome and yet is merely a by-product of the exercise. People do not respond to “get engaged now” directives.
4) Keep it as simple as you can but no simpler – complexity does not necessarily add clarity. Summarizing too much may obscure an important subtlety in your message. Keep your “anchor narrative” compact and easy to understand then make sure all of your communication is in alignment with it. Start by answering “why” not “how” or “what”. You need to clearly state what the objective of your communication is up front to engage your audience before you launch into a monologue on what needs to be done. Starting with “I need you to help me implement this change and make it part of our culture because it will make our company better.” vs. “You now need to fill in this form and send it to that person every time you ….” Just think about all the e-mails you have had to read 3 times just to figure out if it was relevant to anything you were doing.
5) Don’t wait for perfection – if perfection is the enemy of momentum, communication is its BFF. Professional communicators are telling us that we’re all adults and we will get over it if the message changes a bit as time goes on. What we don’t like is when a mass of data is suddenly dropped on top of us and we are all expected to understand it or change direction instantly.
6) Keep it human – talk to people, schedule meetings when people are alert, provide coffee + healthy snacks during meetings, say “thanks”, tell people when their contribution has made a difference. When it’s deserved, judicious and genuine, compliments like “you nailed that” or “couldn’t have done this without you” can make a person’s day. Remind yourself that it’s not just business – we’re dealing with people.
7) Walk the talk – practice what you preach. If this is not self-evident, I apologize for wasting your time.
Today’s guest blog post was from John Volc, P.Eng., PMP. John is a Professional Engineer (Naval Architect) with over 30 years industry experience. You can find out more about John at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jvolc

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. […] course. But that is where if you have a supportive environment where regular coaching and communication takes place and there is accountability, employees WILL learn from their mistakes and improve […]

  2. […] are trying to achieve with your compensation system. Communicate the goals and objectives to them. Communicate how their performance will be measured and how they will be rewarded. Communicate how you ensure […]

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