When I left the military in 2013 for management consulting, it was incredulous to see how such large-scale companies managed to stay afloat amidst a dire lack of communication. Employees working in finance, for example, didn’t know whom to turn to for audit or tax questions.
There were no clearly defined roles, no stated responsibilities and no follow-up means of accountability. Yet, the company was surviving.
Amazing, isn’t it? What’s even more incredible is the fact that this is the norm. Across every sector I've worked -- from healthcare to agriculture, finance, oil and gas, tech, startups and independents -- the same challenges are always there: communication and decision-making.
In terms of communication, how do you know if the message you send over email is the message received? You don’t, at least not without following up. The point is, the challenge of communicating doesn't stop at the keyboard.
The need to convey information is perpetual. It never stops -- ever. It is a full-time job, and communicating accurately requires more effort than simply typing up an email and hitting send.
Here are four questions to ask yourself to ensure that your communication is on the path toward understanding.
1. Am I credible?
Sure, you think you’re credible -- but does your team? When I work with clients they’re often awe struck at the results from 360 reviews after realizing that how they’re perceived (by others) doesn't exactly match how they think they’re received by them.
Here’s a tip: If you have to tell people you’re credible, you’re not. Actions speak louder than words. Who you are and what you do speak volumes about your messaging.
2. How else can I convey the message?
Nobody likes hearing the same message repeatedly. Remember that people interpret information differently. Some people want to gather all the details, others just want the cliff notes.
Know your recipient and how he or she processes information to better align sending with receiving. If you're unsure of the best way to communicate with that person, ask.
3. What subject line will demand their attention?
Just as speakers use variations in pitch and delivery, you can employ the same strategies using email. One of my favorite tactics to get people to open an email is the bait-and-switch technique. Write a subject line that cannot be refused, such as, “You won’t believe the new office rumor -- it’s about you!” and then open up with, “Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about performance reviews…”
Not an ideal way to make friends, but they’ll certainly open up your email.
4. Why should they care?
This question gets to the heart of the matter and asks why the recipient should care about your communique. Sure, maybe it’s their job to respond, but that doesn't necessarily mean they care, it just means they're responsible. There are two ways to getting things done: the right way -- and again. Moreover, working with people who believe what you believe is the difference between not only doing things right but taking execution from ordinary to extra-ordinary.
As always with any communication, check for understanding. Follow up on the task -- not the email -- to be sure that the message sent was the message received.