Managing People - Communication
Improving Communication

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Improving Communication

"Better communication can really help get your team moving together."

The Big Communication Revolution!
A few months ago I had lunch with one of my favorite professors from Harvard Business School, Bill Bruns. Bill told me about a fascinating research project he was working on to study internal communications at some of Europe's largest and most progressive companies. He concluded that one modern wonder was far more important than any other in improving communication at these companies. And I bet you can't guess what it is!

Cheap air tickets. That's right! Not e-mail. Not intranets. Not video conferencing. In fact, Bill found that the more managers communicated electronically, the more pressing became the need for face-to-face meetings.

Avoid E-Mailing Emotions!
E-mail, intranets, faxes, voice mail. They're fine for accelerating the transfer of factual information. But when your communication involves any emotion-such as the expressing of different opinions-a face-to-face meeting is by far the best bet, with a traditional, interactive, phone conversation a distant second choice. Believe me-I've irritated enough people to know!

Why is face-to-face communication so important? As we get more efficient at communicating facts electronically, we tend to forget how much emotion we convey through body language and voice tone. For example, as I say with words that I disagree with someone, my tone, my posture, my smile, and my eye contact may at the very same time be saying, "I value and respect your opinion and enjoy working with you . . . even though I disagree with you on this point."

Talk In Their Terms!
Experts on sales techniques suggest that you talk with prospective customers at the same rate of speech that they talk with you, because people usually like to listen at the same speed that they talk.

Similarly, I find that different people have different preferred methods of communication and that people often send messages by the way they like to receive messages. Some people prefer to communicate in person; others leave a lot of voice-mail messages; others use e-mail; others use memos; others, maybe the company intranet.

When we hire people from much larger corporations, we find that they often alienate people by at first relying too heavily on memos. In any company or department, communication will be stronger and people will work together better if you can standardize communication methods.

Shut Up And Communicate!
So much of communicating successfully is listening successfully. And I have to admit this is something I'm not always so good at myself!

But it is a skill that can be learned. I recently put together a group of eight consultants to create a software package, Adams Streetwise Managing People. It was fascinating to me that despite their different backgrounds and areas of expertise, the consultants all emphasized the importance of listening in solving a vast array of problems. For example, they often suggested that you first tackle people problems by listening to the employees' perspective and then paraphrasing it back to them, both to be sure you understand what they said and to emphasize that you care about what they said.

Why Meetings Matter!
For the first few years of Adams Media, I tried to avoid holding meetings like the plague-I thought meetings were the ultimate sign of bureaucratic paralysis at larger corporations.

Then I discovered that meetings had some important purposes other than just getting things done-and suddenly I was holding meetings all the time! Meetings can make people feel part of a group. And participative meetings give people a feeling that their opinion can be heard, and that it counts!

A lot of problems in communication come about when employees feel that someone else is either not listening to them or does not value their opinion or, worse, does not value them. And today's workers expect to know what is going on at their company, how their work fits into the whole picture, and what the future holds in store.

* Source Streetwise Small Business Start-Up

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