Your email icon dings and flashes, and you open it to read – what is that? Gibberish? There are too many typos to figure out what the purpose of the email is, so you call or walk over to the sender, therefore negating the need of the email in the first place.
Does this sound familiar? Whether it’s over-communicating or under-communicating, no one seems to get it quite right. At a personal level, this is a simple problem to fix with a healthy dose of self-awareness and focus.
For the over-communicator: Bullets are your friend. Instead of taking the time to write out 3 paragraphs for something that should be 3 lines, organize your thoughts. Make each verb and adverb count. Pretend you’re writing on Twitter and need to get everything said in a certain character limit. Usually, long emails are the product of the writer needing to organize and sort their thoughts and objectives.
For the under-communicator: Set aside 15 minutes each morning, and think of the prompt, who/what/when/where/why. Who needs to know what, when, where, and why? Use this prompt to ensure that you’re communicating in a uniform manner with your team. To ensure everyone is on the same path, hold a 5-minute debriefing session after meetings, making sure your team walks away with actionable items. When a team member starts questioning a certain process or detail, ask yourself “How can I help them understand” instead of getting frustrated: “Why don’t they understand?!”
The biggest flaw in all communications? Lack of focus, usually brought on by multitasking.
So many times people email while on calls, have conversations while typing a deliverable, or listen to a webinar while emailing. (I, for one, will always mix up my words while speaking and typing). To have focused and concise deliverables and emails, communication is key.
However, at an organizational level, however, there needs to be more awareness and the ability to police each other. Each email chain asking for clarification puts a large road block in your organization’s ability to succeed, causing frustration and even disengagement of employees. The extra time and effort necessary to get a clear picture of the written work’s purpose and objective is time (and money) effectively wasted.
The best business practice comes with knowing and focusing on each overtone and undertone of each word, which will set the stage for your organization’s overall communication health.