Highly Effective Work Habits: Communication
This is a common problem for most companies. A majority of issues stem from lack of communication. In most of the places I have worked, this has always been an issue (with all teams big and small across all departments).
This is a complicated topic with lots of ways to communicate properly and improperly. So, I’ll do my best to lay down some ground rules.
Try to avoid over-doing it with email communication. It is certainly a good way to get lots of information out to lots of people quickly. However, if you are just talking back and forth, it is better to speak with the individual(s) in person or over the phone. In those cases, talking is quicker than typing. And, it is so easy to misinterpret someone over email, especially with tone. I can’t count the number of times I’ve experienced someone getting upset or jumping to the wrong conclusion because they read the email a different way from how it was written. And, I admit, I’ve done this myself.
Watch how you speak to people. Don’t talk down to them or constantly lecture. I worked with someone in management once who always lectured and didn’t seem to care what anyone had to say. He just rambled on and on and eventually people learned to tune him out and stop taking what he had to say seriously.
Don’t be confrontational or defensive all the time. No one is perfect. The people with big egos who are always arguing, disagreeing, and putting up roadblocks are the ones who end up alienating themselves from the team. No one likes a whiner. If you don’t agree with something, be an adult and professionally state your reasons/alternatives in a calm manner and, in the end, if your suggestions are overruled, don’t hold a grudge or complain.
If you are an executive or manager responsible for decision making on a project, make sure you are at every important meeting and communicate your issues, input, preferences, and concerns. I’ve been on projects before that were on a good pace until the executive swooped in and made major changes because he/she wasn’t coming to the meetings and voicing input. This is not fair to the project or the other individuals working on it.
Most of the time, you’ll want to over-communicate. If you have something important to say, make sure the right people are hearing you. Communicate your status often, especially if you are working on several things at different paces. This also helps if you are a dependency for someone else’s work so that they can adjust their priorities accordingly.
If you need someone’s expertise on the team for something coming up soon (i.e. project input, configuration, deployments, decisions), make sure you give them plenty of heads up. No one likes to be surprised at the last minute when everyone has lots of things on their plates. This will help them to plan so they can accommodate you. Otherwise, you’ll be out of luck and you can’t blame them.
There are lots more we can discuss in this area, but this is a post not a novel I’m sure I’ll come back to this here and there in future topics. Until then, keep this in mind:
“Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn’t listening.”
— Emma Thompson