Wednesday, February 26, 2014
What!? 5 Ways To Communicate Like A Pro.
Most of my friends are in their twenties and are enjoying the bliss of settling into careers. Steady paychecks, double monitors, and office parties have become the norm now, and as much as we love our professions, there's always SOMEONE who's able to ruin the day.
Most of the time, they do this through bad communication. Maybe they've forgotten to include you in a project email, or they've written an email to a client that gets your butts whipped.
Either way, being a great communicator is hard for a lot of people. Luckily, learning how to get better isn't that difficult, and many times, there's a simple formula to it! Here's a list of 5 ways to improve your communication and be the best coworker ever.
1. Don't abbreviate!
When writing an email to a client, it's important that you use full words for everything. Even if the abbreviation is well-known (such as "EOD"--end of day), spell it out. You never know who will be reading the email and if they're up to speed. Do not make up new abbreviations without explaining them. I spent nearly 3 months on a project figuring out an abbreviation that someone had created. It wasn't until the very end that we finally figured out what it was.
Ex: Chose the best answer:
"Let's get started on the OST before Monday, so we don't get behind."
A) OST = on-screen text
B) OST = opportunity-scheduled transition
C) OST = outbound sectional transportation
D) OST = one sound transition
Wrong. You're all wrong. The correct answer is E) Organ slicer technologies. Duh.
2. Always ask a question if you are confused.
You could spend weeks BS-ing your way through a project, or you could suck it up and spend 5 minutes learning how to do it right the first time. Whether you're new on the job, or a seasoned employee, stop wasting everyone's time and speak up. If you don't know something, find the person who can help and get the information you need from them. Being humble enough to ask questions is a rare trait. Show that you're a diamond in the ruff by communicating your needs from the get-go!
Ex: "Hey Cathy, can you show me that short cut you used in Excel to input this data? That will help me do this project efficiently."
3. Always ask a follow-up question.
See something fishy? Need clarification? Don't send back feedback highlighting the mistake or unclear section. Ask a question about what's going on so whoever you're working with understands why you're confused and can make the proper adjustment. Unless you ask a follow-up question, they will be left to play the guessing game, which can go round and round.
Ex: "I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. You're saying "level", but do you mean you want us to raise the level, or lower it?"
4. Always provide follow-through actions.
This statement rings true no matter who you're communicating with. Whether it's your boss, a client, or your teammate, end an email or phone call with the actions you expect them to take. Not only does this remind them to do them, but it sets the stage for following up with them later. Don't give them a reason to say, "Oh, I didn't know you needed that from me." Avoid delays and frustrations by articulating what you expect of them.
Ex: "For next week, we will plan to receive your numbers by end-of-day Wednesday. Thanks for working on those for us."
5. When working with a team, communicate your actions.
To piggy-back on number 4, be sure to communicate what actions you'll be taking. Your team, your boss, and your clients expects you to be working for them as well. Make sure you set their expectations from the beginning by articulating what you will be working on. That way, they have an opportunity to add or subtract actions from your list before you start. And, you can avoid delays or frustrations later.
Ex: "Once we receive your numbers, we'll input them into our system so we can have a projection for you by Friday. Until then, we'll work on the PowerPoint so it will be ready to use."
What other communication strategies do you guys use?
What areas of communication have you seen break down?
What is your favorite secret to effective communication?