11 Oct Timely Communication
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. I have spent my entire career, 25 years, in the field of communications. So why do I still struggle to effectively communicate at times?
Good communication is more than just choosing the right words, it is also about when to communicate and by what means you choose to communicate.
Let’s start by choosing the right words. This should seem obvious, but as leaders we need to choose our words wisely. As my career as progressed, and I transitioned from being the employee to being the boss, I started to notice my words had a deeper meaning to people. It’s not like I had changed, I was the same person as before, but as my title increased so did the meaning of my words.
Let me give you an example. I might make a comment about a project that the company should consider doing to improve a process. As an employee my comments were heard and sometimes implemented. When I became the boss and made similar comments, the team would drop everything they were working on to implement my idea. And in most cases I wasn’t sure my idea was the right one for the company.
I want to give my team the freedom to disagree with my thoughts and come up with better ideas on their own.
I had to learn quickly to ask for feedback or ask questions about what a process could look like instead of brainstorming my ideas out loud. I still catch myself making comments, but I try to say upfront that this is just an idea, and we should look at all the angles. Or I might say this is something we need to do, but not a high priority. I want to give my team the freedom to disagree with my thoughts and come up with better ideas on their own.
When to communicate is equally as important. I used to open my laptop every Friday night to catch up on emails I had missed during the week. This worked great when I had no direct reports. I felt good going into my weekend making sure that I did not drop the ball on any projects or client needs. I used that opportunity to make notes for the following week on any items that I needed to follow up on.
Flashforward to a different job years later, and I am still opening my laptop on Friday night and sending emails. One day one of my direct reports came to me with an honest concern. She told me she felt like she could not unplug over the weekends because her inbox was full of emails from me, her boss. I felt horrible, that was never my intention. I apologized for making her feel like she could not get away from the office and we worked out a new system for emails. I gave her permission to ignore any emails from me that came at night or over the weekend; that if anything was urgent, I would send her a text message.
I learned a lot from that experience, and I try to let any staff that works for me know the same, that if it is urgent, I will send you a text. We own TV and Radio networks that run 24/7, so sometimes I must send a text. But most of my messages can wait until the morning.
Finally, by what means we choose to communicate. Emails and text messages really are the worst. They don’t convey emotions and often are read with the wrong intentions. I have sent my share of emails that I would gladly take back if I could. In fact, I have learned that a quick email from my phone is the worst kind of email for me. Emails sent at my desk are well thought out and I sometimes have someone else read my emails before I hit send. At work it might be our COO or my assistant, and if I have to send an email or text message at home, I will ask my wife to read it before I hit send.
Depending on what needs to be communicated, sometimes the best form is in-person. Particularly if you are giving constructive feedback.
As business leaders we think a lot about how to communicate our message to prospects and current clients, but even more important is how we communicate to our staff. We need to choose our words wisely, communicate at the correct time, and use the platform that makes the most sense for what we are trying to communicate.
Scott Miller is the CEO of Centerpost Media and host of the Create. Build. Manage. Show (seen on BizTV, heard on BizTalkRadio, and available wherever you listen to podcasts.) You can find Scott on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via “@scottmillerceo” or on LinkedIn via “@scottmillermedia.” Centerpost Media is a content marketing agency with a vision to help every business they encounter with their media needs by providing outstanding quality, service and value. Centerpost Media is the parent company to BizTV, BizTalkRadio, BizTalkPodcasts and Bizvod.