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Culture of Collaboration Series – Part III

This image is a picture of a piece of art that my husband had re-created by an artist friend of his that he discovered in the south of France one day at a restaurant in Cannes. It directly translates as “The main thing is that I communicate”.

I believe that communication is an art. Engaging and interacting with intention to convey ideas, thoughts, decisions, and direction is one of the most complex activities that human beings perform on a daily basis.

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve been observing myself, others around me, and the world at large to try and understand where the roadblocks are, how they can be overcome and develop a few easy to remember tips to consider when communicating.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have some experience, and it’s my hope that sharing with you will be helpful to you in the development of your art through communication.

This article is intended to provide you with some reminders of what to be aware of when communicating, how to avoid some pitfalls, and leave you with a few elements to consider when preparing to communicate, whatever the form.

Forms of Communication

Communication comes in many forms, all of which are important, yet people can get into a rut of assumptions as they communicate, often thinking they’ve communicated effectively, when in fact their attempts have fallen on deaf ears.

The most common forms of communication in today’s world:

  • Meetings
  • Emails
  • Phone Calls
  • Video Calls & Video Conferences
  • Chat applications
  • Text
  • Non-Verbal
  • Advertising
  • Blog Posts, news articles and social media posts

Communication roadblocks:

Just from reading the list above, you start to get a sense of the first and most important roadblock to consider when contemplating how to communicate. The fact is, we have created so many channels of communication that we are in sensory overload, unable to incorporate the incredible volume of information coming at us.

Some examples of other roadblocks to successful communication include:

  • Lack of direct engagement – Not having the full attention of the target of your communication is perilous to your message. The best way to overcome this problem is to pick up the phone, visit a person’s desk, or otherwise address them by name and ask for their attention before you start to communicate.
  • Prioritization bias – Everyone has preferences when it comes to how they receive their communications, who they come from and its relative position in the queue. Knowing your audience, respecting their time and their individual communication preferences is key to getting your message across.
  • Assumption of authority – Many people, myself included at times falsely believe that people will pay attention to what they say and write, thinking that their position or status relative to their audience will ensure engagement. A sense of humility and self-awareness is the best cure for this challenge.
  • One-way communications – When people think they’re being preached to, unless they’re at church, they will probably tune out. Again, the best way to avoid this is to directly engage, ensure eye contact when possible, and ask for confirmation of understanding, and allow time and space between words to hear and listen.
  • Lack of precision – This is especially virulent in the world of emails, chats, texts, social media posts and other channels where there is no immediate feedback or accountability required by the author. As a practical matter, going back to tried and true basics are key here. State your purpose, support your thinking (provide facts, figures, and assumptions), then summarize your points, decisions and calls for action.

Five easy tips to consider when communicating:

  1. Form – Choose your form of communication and communications channel wisely, and opt for direct engagement wherever possible, understanding and respecting your audience and ensuring their full attention. Direct engagement allows for the maximum amount of communication through listening, validation, and confirmation of understanding.
  2. The Why and the What – Think about why you’re communicating and what your goal is before you do it. Random communication is just that – and prioritized by your audience that way.
  3. Timing – Everything always seems so urgent in the moment, but there is usually an ideal time to communicate something depending on the nature of the communication. Considering the timing of your audience is more important than considering your own timing.
  4. Intentionality – Thoughtful communication that is well composed, well delivered, and comes across as having a high quality of logic is usually the most well received. Be specific and decisive, don’t pose questions that result in ambiguity.
  5. Compassion and Humility – Again, this goes back to understanding your audience and putting yourself in their shoes (or ears). Think about how you’d like to receive a message, what considerations you would want from the person communicating with you, and then incorporate that into your messaging.

Technology has provided us with so many innovations and channels for self-expression and rapid communication of information. Here’s where a few old adages come to mind for me:

  • Quality verses Quantity;
  • Less is More;
  • Listen more than you speak (that’s why we have two ears and one mouth).

In keeping with these themes, I’ll wrap it up here.  I look forward to hearing what you have to say about communication and whether any of this resonates with you, as I engage directly with you in the coming days, weeks, and years.

John Henning is the Chief Client Officer at Granite Solutions Groupe. He has over 35 years of leadership experience in the financial services and technology industries, and currently oversees all client account management, professional services, marketing strategy, business development and sales operations for GSG.