Study after study confirms that the number one challenge within most organizations is Communication- or lack of it. Yet if I were to ask you what you spend most of your time doing all day, every day what would you tell me? Communicate right?
How are we supposed to interpret that? What can we do? Should we send MORE emails? schedule MORE meetings? Have MORE conference calls? As crazy as this sounds, that seems to be the solution most companies agree upon. If this has been your solution let me ask you one more question. How is that working for you?
My belief is probably not so good.
There already aren’t enough hours in your day to empty your in-box, attend all your meetings and sit though yet another conference call. And let’s be honest, most of us are doing other work on those conference calls anyway. All this meaningless communication has creeped into your time away from work, impeding on your family, friends and personal activities. Again, I’ll ask you, how’s this working for you?
Time to stop the madness and start re-thinking the way we communicate both internally and with our clients and customers. Let’s break this down.
To start with there are several types of communication we engage in every day. Learning to identify which of these you are dealing with is the first step if you ever want to start becoming and effective communicator and start getting some of your free time back.
With one on one communication we have two types of communication generally taking place
- Transactional communication
- Conversational communication
Let’s start with the most common style of communication in our workplace- Transactional.
Think about most of your interactions at work. Usually it’s initiated because you need something, or someone needs something from you. By definition this is what we refer to as a transaction.
It may look something like this.
“Hi Jim, do you have the sales report from last quarter ready yet?”
The response “Just finishing it up, I’ll have to you by the end of the day”
There you have it, a simple clean transaction. By the way, this communication will almost certainly be done via email, text or some other form of electronic media. Email and text are a great when it comes to Transactional communication as there is usually a request, followed up with a response of when the request may get delivered by.
Email and text are best when dealing with the transactional communications dealing with:
Who, When, or Where
You (who) are invited to marketing meeting, in conference room B (where), at 930am on Feb 10th (When). See how clean and effective this type of communication can be.
Now let’s look at the second type of one on one communication which is conversational.
“Kelly, let’s walk through our sales process and see if there are any areas where we can make some improvements or decide together it’s we think it’s good the way it is.”
The response- “Ok, well the first step is to use our marketing team to identify qualified prospects, then…”
As you see this type of communication is a free-flowing dialogue between two or more people. There’s still a common goal or intended outcome, but neither party needs something from the other person. This allows for the discussion to move into other aspects of the business, maybe identify other challenges or opportunities, and maybe even venture into personal situations.
By the way, you probably already understand that this type of communication must either be done face to face, video call or regular old phone. Not via email.
Conversational communication is the most effective for dealing with the:
How, What or Why
Sadly, Conversational communication is dying a slow death in our business cultures as we attempt to squeeze them into the transactional format of an email. This is like attempting to fit a round peg into a square hole. It also creates confusion and a lot more meaningless communication.
Think about how we explain, and sometimes over-explain the “how, what and whys” of our messages. In the moment, they seem to make perfect sense to us, right? Yet somehow the intention gets lost in the translation as our words or often misunderstood by receiver of our transactional messaging format.
Think about this in a SEND and RECEIVE model.
When I’m sitting in front of you face to face, or on and actual phone conversation, I can communicate with you’re the subtle nuances of language. I can convey humor, sarcasm, emotion, likes, dislikes, and anything else that I wish to transfer to the receiver of my message. As the receiver in this conversation, you have the opportunity to ask relevant, probing and confirming questions. You can challenge my thought processes in a non-threatening way, and even change my final decision as together we weigh the consequences of our intended actions.
Now think about this same communication in a transactional email format. I SEND my thoughts to you in what seems to be perfectly clear language to me. You RECEIVE this email and it’s confusing, so you ask me a few questions in what appears to you to be a non-threatening voice.
In a rush, and unable to clarify exactly what you are asking, I read your words and interpret them with a condescending tone and believe you are challenging my logic and attempting to undermine my decision-making process. I fire back, defending my position and attacking you without even considering your thoughts.
This goes back and forth, and now to compound the issue we’ve CC’s several others on the communication without giving them the context of the original thoughts. All these CC’d individuals now believe that they are all being asked to complete some sort of transaction, so they chime in with completely irrelevant information creating a disjointed, convoluted communication mess.
Does this sound familiar at all? This example is the net result of attempting to create meaningful conversation and dialogue in a transactional based communication format. Rarely does it ever work.
To become an effective communicator, you will be forced to utilize every format at your disposal to convey your thoughts, ideas and directives. Taking the time to understand which type of communication will get you the best results based on the situation is the first step.
Ask yourself this week:
Where am I getting my best results when it comes to communication?
What situations am I not getting the outcomes I desire when I’m communicating?
Have I gotten too comfortable using a transactional form of communication? How is this working for me?
Where would a simple conversation better serve me and my organization?
Thoughts for the week:
The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. -George Bernard Shaw
Communication works for those who work at it. -John Powell
10% of conflict is due to difference of opinion and 90 % is due to delivery and tone of voice- Unknown
Communication is the sister of Leadership- John Adair
Email is perfect for the “Who, When and Where” of communication, once you start using email for the “How, What and Why” all bets are off. – Tim Furlong
Looking forward to our next connection