Over the years, one of the most surprising things I have seen in business is the frightening lack of effective communication – or better yet, any communication at all! The old adage ‘the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing’ is tired and worn out from overuse, but it’s not the cliché’s fault, it’s ours. Here are three simple principles we can all follow to promote more effective communication at the office.
Have you ever watched people move at a crowded train station or airport? How can literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people all make their way in, out, and around this space without everyone constantly running headlong into everyone else? It’s amazing when you stop to think about it, but what everyone is doing is using body language to communicate their intended travel path. It’s only when someone reaches that moment of indecision and doesn’t know which way to go and stops sending those non-verbal queues that indicate their travel path that things start to get messy.
It’s the same way in business. If everyone knows what I’m doing, then the likelihood of me running smack into something that is going to derail my progress falls dramatically. People need to know who I am, what I do, and what I’m doing right now in order for them to successfully negotiate in or around my area of responsibility. And the easiest way for me to do that is make certain that I am 100% transparent in my actions and my intent. It just makes life so much easier to deal with!
But even being transparent in my daily work, I still need to actually take the time and communicate my intentions to the rest of my coworkers. It is often the case in larger organizations that making even a relatively minor change to a product or a process can have startling ramifications in corners of the business that we just don’t normally think about.
That’s why I constantly remind myself to take the time and let everyone know what I’m doing. It’s amazing how many times someone has asked for a meeting after I tell them which projects I have queued up because something I’m doing has downstream effects on something that they do. Communicating early and often with your entire organization is absolutely essential.
Properly Setting Expectations
But the final piece of the puzzle is often the most important. And that leads us to properly setting the expectations of others. Even if we are completely transparent and take the time to let everyone else know what we are working on, if we fail to properly communicate our intent then we have still failed.
In the end, I must communicate not only what I am doing in the organization, but also what everyone else can expect as a result of the work that I am doing. Communicating milestones, progress, and dates to the rest of my organization not only allows me to properly set expectations across the board, it also provides a record of my intent and execution. It’s all there in black and white (or that funky dark blue font that replies go out in) for everyone to see.
Which reminds me of one other piece of advice, ‘Never bite off more than you can chew!’