Seven Tips to Ensure Clear Communication at Work
Whether its with people in the next room or the next continent, communicating has become as easy as sending a text or pressing the "send" button for an email. While its easier than ever before, its made a many people too wordy and too open. When it comes to the workplace, this is something that managers and employees alike must avoid. Michael Feuer, co-founder and former CEO of OfficeMax, presents seven strategies to make sure communication remains concise and prevents the point from being lost.
“Since we can say as much as we want in multiple forums these days, almost everyone—including businesspeople—provide too much information their exchanges,” said Feuer, author of the newly released book, The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business, and Outwit the Competition (Wiley, 2011). “In many organizations, the art of cutting to the chase has been lost.”
While the concept of your boss, or you, becoming a dictator may sound undesirable for the workplace, the key word is benevolent. A manager is there to lead and make things happen. Feuer focuses on how leaders need to make difficult and timely decisions, while keeping the interests of the organization, team, and customers ahead of their own. Communication is a crucial part of any functioning company and maintaining workplace relations. Here is an overview of Feuer’s seven tips (meant for managers, but useful to anyone) to keep from writing lengthy memoirs as a response to a quick workplace query.
Be Clear About What You Need
Be straightforward and don’t rely on hints to communicate what you need. Don’t be harsh, but do be direct when necessary. Appeal to their expertise and, as Feuer says, ask for a “short sound bite.”
Overhaul Voicemail and Email
While explicitly asking for a quick summary will help for that conversation, recognize that the wordy individual is probably just as lengthy in all of their other workplace conversations. “Survey your team members’ current responses for their business email and telephone messages, and prepare to be shocked by the content and length!” Feuer advises. “Then supervise the shortening process.” He also adds that having the PR or HR departments create short sample scripts could be of use.
Talk Through Conversations
While it is hard to moderate what people say in conversation, establish standards that they should be expected to follow, highlighting brevity and clarity.
Get Frequent Updates from Key People/Micromanage
While micromanage is a word only uttered when cursing someone’s management strategy, don’t let that deter you from requesting updates. They are key to making sure that you know what is going on at the company. “When you know what’s happening in real time, you can accelerate your organization’s growth and prevent garden-variety problems from snowballing into disasters of Biblical proportions,” explains Feuer. “Don’t underestimate the importance of remaining aware of the flow of factual information!”
Use Your Negatives Sparingly
If these tips haven’t produced the desired result yet, make sure that you aren’t being too negative in your commentary lest the employees ultimately start ignoring your comments.
Look in the Mirror
No, this isn’t an appeal to vanity, rather a recommendation to see yourself as part of the team, not just as their manager. “If you’re not getting the results you want, you might be the problem,” Feuer shares. “Leaders, especially those nearer to the top of the organizational hierarchy, sometimes forget how it felt to be directed. Ask yourself how you’d want to be told to do something important. Chances are it wouldn’t be to do XYZ, or face dire consequences without any further explanation. When you’re open about what’s at stake and use a logical, positive tone, you’ll probably find that your communications take root and grow!”
The Medium is the Message
Choose the right venue for broaching discussion, as to make sure they have the most impact. “Delivering a serious concern about sales would be an inappropriate announcement to make at an awards event, for instance,” says Feuer. “Knowing when to say the right thing will lend your message credibility and significance.”
Use these tips to streamline workplace communications and, as Feuer puts it, “cut out all the background noise.”