It is Friday evening, everyone is already enjoying the week-end. In the middle of an empty parking lot, B. sits in his car, sending a last email with his blackberry like he did not reach his weekly quota. But, the multiplicity of emails is not a sufficient condition to good communication inside a project. Most projects fail by lack of communication and I have therefore grouped some best practices that I would like to share with you hereafter: 1. Sharing Information is not communicating
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
A common mistake is to believe that sending an information by email is communicating. An email is not necessarily the communication of a piece of information. If you want important information to circulate, prefer a face to face meeting or phone call to communicate on the topic/issue. If you need to write an email, analyze the goals as well as your audience first to ensure that the information will be clearly communicated ( see my next blog Post: Xin FU: drafting and reviewing your emails) 2. Use the communication channels efficiently
«Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized.» Marilyn vos Savant
Be aware of the existing communication channels and material at your disposal. Use them effectively by selecting the appropriate channels according to the targeted audience. Pick up the phone if the number of emails exchanged reaches a critical level. if you want to record the phone conversation or keep track of the resolution of the topic discussed, summarize the phone conversation in an email (or a quick note) and send it to the persons concerned. 3. Busyness is not an excuse
«He who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.» Rabindranath Tagore
I easily fall in this trap, pushing back people who come to ask me a question because I am busy on something. It is ok to avoid being distracted when working on important topics but don”t do that all day long. Being busy can not be an excuse not to communicate effectively with your colleagues. We are always going to be busy on something. Schedule in your agenda some free time to communicate. Let your colleagues know when you are available for them. 4. All at the same time (or all equally informed)
«Nothing is swifter than rumor.» Horace
Why was I not informed earlier ? Why was I indirectly informed by a secretary in the hall when this information should have come from the management ? These are questions that lead to frustrations inside a company. If you do not have a clear top down communication in place, it creates a climate where rumors spread quickly and where conflicts may emerge. To avoid that, communication should reach all stakeholders at all levels and at the same time. 5. A good leader share bad news with his team.
“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.” Colin Powell
We have a natural tendency to avoid sharing bad news. To postpone one”s communication for later. If you do not share bad news with your team on time and they learn it from another source, they will have the feeling to be treated as kids. Your team should always know what”s going on on a project in order to avoid frustration and conflicts. 6. Understand the ways of communication
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Anthony Robbins
We have all different education, culture but also different way to interpret the information we receive. Is your recipient a listener or a reader ? Does he need to see the whole picture or does he want to see all the details? Pay attention to these differences and start by seeing if your boss is a listener or a reader This is all the more true in an international environment, you have to consider the cross-culture communication, learn how to efficiently communicate a message to another culture. Do not panic if a Russian is speaking loudly to his colleagues in a meeting, if an Indian tell you «yes» it may mean «no», do not be surprised by the prompt message the American are sending… Understanding the difference of culture in communication is an important factor in a international environment. Learn and experience them. 7. understand before being understood
«The most important thing in communication is to hear what is not being said.» Peter F.Drucker
Communication is not about speaking to an audience and explaining how to solve an issue. Communicating is to listen first to make sure that the issue was clearly understood. First listen , then speak ! This is especially true in cross-cultural environment, where the language barrier may add some noise in communication. So, do not hesitate to ask questions to insure that you correctly understood your interlocutor. If you have a phone conversation , summarize it by email to be sure that everything was clearly understood and that you will not take inappropriate actions. 8. Complex words make complex communication.
«Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication» Leonardo da Vinci
Communicating is not about showing your good education and using a thesaurus in order to introduce complex words. Beware with abbreviations and technical jargons you may use in your communication. it may be familiar to you but it may not be the case for your recipient. Keep your communication short and appropriate. Conciseness in communication is important 9. Be yourself
«It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.» Andre Gide
Do not pretend to be someone you are not. Do not write sentences in your emails you would not use in a face to face conversation. 10. Search for feedback
«All effective and engaging learning experiences provide frequent and meaningful feedback. Without feedback on whether or not one is getting closer to a goal, progress is unlikely.» Unknown
How can you believe that your communication is perfect ? That you use the right communication channel in a particular context? Analyze the number of emails asking for further clarification. It may indicate that your first email might have not been clear. The only way is to look for feedback and provide recipients with an open way of sharing what they think about your communication methods. Communication is not about sending information but being sure that the recipient gets it in the right way and performs the appropriate actions. ——– Some references on Communication I recommend: Yoo, J.H. (2009). The power of sharing negative information in a dyadic context. Communication Reports, 22, 29-40. Informer n”est pas communiquer, Essai de Dominique Wolton, CNRS Editions.