Improving Your Communication

Jeff McLanahan
Contributing Writer

When I speak to leaders about the items they want to improve upon, the one item that inevitably makes the list is communication.

As my conversation continues, leaders generally discuss items such as being more transparent in their communication, using various delivery mediums, and increasing the frequency of their messaging.  Does this sound familiar?

While these are all good goals, the one thing that is seldom mentioned is how to improve their current actual communication.

In my role, I receive a lot of communication in a variety of ways, so I do not feel that I need more frequent communication.  In fact, I feel as though I receive too much communication.  Because of the volume of communication I receive, I find it difficult to get through it all.  What I would like, is more effective communication.

How many of us read beyond the first paragraph of a long email?  I know some people that will not read beyond the email subject line (unless that subject line really grabs their attention).  Many will create files and move communication into them to “read later,” but seldom find time to actually read these at a later time.

Resolve to increase the effectiveness of your communication this year.  Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1.     Take time to gather your thoughts before writing an email.

a.     Does the email need to be sent at all?

b.     What do I want to communication to the receiver?

2.     Be brief in your communication but be clear (and polite).

a.     Can the message be communicated in a single paragraph?  A single sentence?

3.     Use words that will be most effective in getting your message across.

a.     Sometimes it is appropriate to be direct (I need this information sent to me by 11am).

b.     Sometimes a consultative approach is better (What would be a good time for the call?).

Written communication should be used if you want to convey specific details.  It is also a great tool for getting the same information to a large group of people.

Don’t use written communication if your expectation is to carry on a conversation.  In this instance, pick up the phone and use verbal communication.

One final piece of advice is to continuously evaluate your communication.  Take time to re-read several messages you have recently sent.  Were they as effective as they could have been?  How could they have been more effective?

With a little effort and attention, you can achieve your goals on improving the effectiveness of your communication!

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