Keep the ‘receiver’ in mind.
When you’re communicating with colleagues at any level, everyone benefits if the receiver has enough info to easily prioritize and respond.
The components of good communication are People, Process, Information and Technology.
Ask colleagues you communicate with most if they can agree to these suggested protocols:
If you tell me verbally, my mind may have wandered for any number of reasons — including the fact that if I’m the average person, I’m only listening about 25% of the time. If I’m stressed, sleep-deprived, multi-tasking or on a deadline, I may be even less able to focus and retain info. If I report to you, I’ll probably focus more on what you’re saying, so I may hear as much as 50% [sad but true.]
If I need to do something, or to understand important info, be specific about WHAT, WHY and WHO. Don’t assume I know what you know, that I have the same historical context, technical expertise or make the same assumptions that you do. Clear and simple are always appreciated.
Give me an opportunity to ask clarifying questions. It takes far less time to clarify now than it does to unravel misunderstandings later.
Please don’t assume that I’ll remember our conversation of last month, last week, or unfortunately, even yesterday. If at all possible, follow up with a written message/ email with the important details, including the purpose/ intended outcome, any time sensitive deliverables and who else is involved.
Like you, my calendar is overflowing; I have too many meetings, and often I don’t have the information I need to prioritize them, so I frequently spend time in meetings that seem to have little or no direct relationship to my work. At the same time, depending on who is involved, declining may send the wrong message. Even so, in order to free-up a couple hours a day to actually DO some work, I sometimes avoid seemingly discretionary or information-only meetings.
In your email or meeting requests, please include the details, purpose/ outcome and who is involved. This isn’t about name-dropping or political games – if I know the context, purpose and participants, I’ll be less likely to embarrass myself by opting out of something I clearly should have been part of – or that you want my involvement in. I’m also more likely to be prepared, and therefore, more likely to make a meaningful contribution. When you share the purpose and ask for my input or involvement, I also feel respected as a colleague- therefore, more likely to collaborate with you to achieve your goals.
If there’s info that will help me to prepare ahead, please send it or direct me to it as soon as you can. And let’s agree to be real…if my interaction and presence in the meeting isn’t all that important – especially if I can just read and respond instead of attending, please respect me enough to give me the option….just let me know what you need from me and when you need it. I’ll do my best to return the favor.
Since we may each have hundreds of unread emails at any given time, can we agree on a couple of simple and respectful protocols:
Subject Line: Please use a short phrase that describes what I need to know about the importance and content of this email.
How about this format?
If it’s urgent [seriously] put the word urgent first in the subject line. If it’s important and you need a response by a certain time, put “response requested by [date/ time]” in the subject line. Only select “High Importance” or the equivalent if it really is – to me, not just to you!
In the body of the email:
The important info, what you want me to know or do, and its relative importance should be first. If you’re concerned that I may feel discounted if you don’t ask about my weekend, vacation or kids first…ask me. Chances are I’d rather you just got to the point. We can always catch up over coffee.
If necessary, follow that with a paragraph or a few bullet points with details, benefits, actions, clarification or other information that will be helpful to me in prioritizing and responding. Bullet points are easier to read quickly than narrative paragraphs.
If you need to send more than a couple paragraphs, either attach a document or include it as a footnote after the important info above.
Outgoing Greeting: Let’s agree to keep them short and simple. Listening to preambles and positioning statements, followed by system messages before you can leave a simple message is beyond annoying.
Incoming Messages: Please state the purpose of your call, what you want me to do [eg call you back or remember to do something] and when you need me to do it if it’s time sensitive. 20 words or less is great, followed by your name and phone number. Even if you believe I should have your number, I may not have it readily available or I may not be able to look it up right now. Want me to return your call? Make it easy.Please leave your phone number last so I don’t have to listen to the message twice in order to capture it.
One more thing: ask colleagues what they prefer – voice message, email or txt message – so that you can use their preferred communication method when practical.
©copyright 2013. Masters Among Us, Inc Marilou Myrick All rights reserved.
NOTE: The link to this white paper on www.TheStage1.com may be shared freely with others. Complete the form on http://thestage1.com/contact/ to request a pdf copy.