Any of the following familiar?
- You feel more like you’re talking at the team instead of with the team.
- The team complains about communication. Not enough of the right and too much of the wrong.
- You get 100+ emails a day, they never stop and the only thing you have to show for it is increased anxiety and frustration
- You over-communicate initiatives, goals, and updates with minimal results
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. – Stephen Covey
Try the following 3 steps:
#1 Know Thyself.
We each have our own unique filter for how we see, hear, and understand the world. Genetics, talents, experience, education, situation, and motivation are unique for each of us. At Trybal Performance, we utilize the StrengthsFinder tool to help individuals define and understand their filters for the world around them. Regardless of the tool you use, find something to help you gain insight into you. Ask for feedback from those around you. Reflect on when your communication was most successful and least successful. Get curious and seek to understand you.
#2 Know Thy Team
Make it a point to understand the individuals on your team and help them understand you. Often, we assume our filter is right and everyone else should have the same. Based on those assumptions we communicate with little serious thought to how those around us receive and process the information we’re delivering. We also don’t clearly help those around us understand how we see, hear, and understand what they’re sending our way. Openly discuss and evaluate team communication. What works and what doesn’t? Get curious and seek to understand your team.
#3 Define Communication:
Based on knowledge of self and team, carefully define your communication culture. This is not a simple step and will take time and effort. Consider the three most basic forms of communication: Verbal, Email, Text. We use them all day, every day. How much time have you actually put into managing and defining them? How much time have you spent discussing with your team? What should new team members know to assimilate quickly?
Some questions to ask yourself for each method of communication:
What does an ideal verbal discussion at work look like for you? Short and sweet or long and detailed? Do you find it easy to strike up conversation or laborious? Do you prefer verbal communication over other forms like email or text? Is your typical verbal communication animated or calm? Are you loud or soft spoken? Is verbal via phone acceptable or should it be in person whenever possible? What about video conference?
What does an ideal email look like for you? When is email appropriate versus other forms of communication? Is email an urgent form of communication for you? Do you want complete sentences and paragraph format with a lot of detail or short bullets of incomplete sentences? What’s the expected response time on email? How fast do you normally respond to emails? What about off hours like nights and weekends?
What does an ideal text look like for you? When is text the most appropriate form of communication versus other options? Are misspellings due to typos annoying or fine. How fast will you typically respond and how fast do you expect others to respond? Are texts during meetings acceptable? What type of information is appropriate in a text and what should be in email?
In the hectic, firefighting environments in which we work, we can lose sight of the basics. Something like communication is taken for granted. After all, everyone talks, emails, and texts. However, forget the basics and problems get complicated. Just like we take for granted the air we breathe until it’s polluted or missing, the same applies to our daily interactions. Perhaps, the following quote says it best.
Fish swim in water, people swim in communication. – Alexsys Thompson