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Bridging the divide - communicating at work

Communication is...difficult. Especially in business.

Not physically. Physically, communication is easy. In this, the year 2020, we have thousands of ways you can get in touch with your clients and colleagues  - wherever they may be.

Communication is difficult because it takes a lot of work - everyone involved needs to want to communicate effectively or it just won’t work. You can very easily exchange a multitude of words without anything really being said.

We don’t want to work is silos where we never share information or talk like robots and ask people to confirm receipt of all knowledge but there are ways to make sure you and your team communicate better.

 

Never Assume 

Many communication issues arise because people make assumptions. You may assume that because you shared information it was heard, understood, and retained. This does not mean that this is necessarily the case. You may also assume that you don’t need to verbalise the issue because it’s obvious but in reality, nothing truly ‘goes without saying’. 

Never assume that other people think like you do. Just because you think something is obvious, doesn’t mean the rest of your team does. The clearer you can be (without being patronising, obviously) the better. 

 

Crystal Clear

Say what you mean. In the UK especially, we can be prone to trying so hard to be polite that we don’t say what we mean and we don’t communicate our wants or needs. If you need a webpage to be complete by tomorrow morning say so. Give as much advanced notice as you can but even if that’s not possible don’t say you ‘Just thought it might be nice if you could possibly maybe' have it by tomorrow. Your coworkers aren’t going to be annoyed that you asked them to do their own jobs - they’ll be grateful that they don’t have to try and decode what you’re asking of them. 

 

Mixed Medium

As mentioned, we have many, many ways to share information and, although it’s important not to waste time being too repetitive, if you’ve said something in more than one format you have a greater chance of getting the point across. People learn in different ways and it can be easy to forget a point that was made in a meeting if you’re a visual person who needs to see it written down or maybe illustrated in some way. Send emails to confirm conversations you had on the phone, share meeting notes and if you’re talking about a visual project, make sure people get to see what you’re trying to say.

 

Getting RACI

Try a RACI matrix. This Project Management tool is great for accountability - you literally list a team member as ‘Accountable’. 

RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. On one axis you put everyone involved in the project and on the other, milestones within the project. You then cross reference and, for each milestone determine who is Responsible (does the work; who is Accountable (makes sure the work is done); who is Consulted (asked for input or advice); who is informed (told about what you’re working on). 

Creating and sharing a RACI matrix lets everyone know at which points during the project they are required and what they are expected to do. There’s then safe ground for anyone to chip in and ask why they weren’t informed of a certain action when they should have been or why the responsible person hasn’t finished the work. It keeps everyone on the same page and that page can be referenced at any time. 

Shared Documents

Shared documents are commonplace - this isn’t new information but you may still find that the one document you need is on your colleague's desktop and they’re on holiday for 3 weeks. If other people need to see a document, make it shareable by design, put it in a shared area and tell everyone involved that it’s there. We’ve all felt the unique frustration of trying to guess what a colleague might have named the quote from 2017 you need to reference and how their esoteric personal filing system works. 

 

No Man (or Woman) is an Island

In 2020 the office is not necessarily ‘the office’. Your team may work together in one location, some people may work from home, or you may be a team of digital nomads scattered to the wind. Even in our perpetually connected world, this can make it hard to get your message across. If you feel like your team are moving like planets out of orbit, find a central point of communication. This could be ticket system that you all update, a series of calls where you check in or a stand up meeting if you’re in person. You may not be in the same time zone but make sure you have a central point you can come back to.

 

Lead by example

You may not be able to cover all of the ideas above but the most important thing about communication is to make sure that you are communicating. There may be some hurdles to overcome, some issues to iron out, and some people may not enjoy change but as long as you’re actively trying to share information, you’re halfway there.  

 

Frances Smolinski
Frances

Created on Tuesday January 28 2020 12:33 PM


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