Communication. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it difficult to say what I really want to say at work. In fact, it actually seems impossible, at times, for fear that I will offend or upset the recipient of my message if I mess up the delivery. From time-to-time, I suffer from this when communicating with my team, my boss, and my customers.
Communicating effectively each and every day is hard. On any given work day I communicate with individuals (job seekers, new client contacts, current customers, my colleagues and the owner of Optimum). All these people hold different roles and have different reasons for communicating with me. The relationship dynamics vary enormously.
Rapport, Trust, and Respect
Many of the people I communicate with on a daily basis know me well and there is a strong rapport and underlying trust so that it is much easier to send a message freely without risk of damaging the relationship. With trust comes mutual respect, so I am able to communicate in a way that conveys a mutually beneficial outcome. However, I also speak with strangers every day, so firstly I need to build rapport and this often takes time. Building credibility doesn’t just happen instantly and this is something I try hard to remember because establishing credibility is a vital building block to starting a relationship that may lead to conducting business.
One Day of Communication
I had a think about the communication I participated in last Friday (and these are just the conversations I was conscious of, let alone all the signals I sent subconsciously (but that blog is for another time). Below is a snapshot of my communication on that day:
- As MC of an RCSA breakfast presentation, I introduced the speakers to an audience of 50 recruitment professionals.
- Had multiple Skype conversations with staff based overseas.
- Had meetings with two candidates to discuss suitability for roles I’m recruiting.
- Confirmed a fee negotiation in writing.
- Interviewed a potential Recruitment Consultant to join Optimum.
- Spoke to a client to finalise a job offer and also with a colleague to confirm the candidate acceptance.
- Phoned several candidates to update them on the progress of their application for jobs.
- Had a lunch with two of my managers to celebrate a 6-year milestone and share stories on how our industry and company has evolved over that time.
- Liked and Shared a couple of interesting articles via LinkedIn.
- Had a meeting with a senior colleague to share business improvement ideas.
- Had informal, end of week office catch up with our Brisbane based team sharing wins and learnings from the week.
- Wrote my weekly Work Log and updated my Goal Progress in our Employee Life.
- Responded to each of my teams weekly Work Logs in writing.
Purpose and Outcome
Rather than help me communicate, I’m finding the vast array of communication mediums available today a hindrance. It is complicated and becoming more so as technology continues to develop. Getting an effective message to the person or people to be interpreted in the manner I’m aiming for is tricky when there are so many options available today.
I make decisions ‘on the fly’ about how I communicate. Should I hit Reply when I receive an email asking a question, or should I pick up the phone and respond verbally or arrange a time to discuss face-to-face? Should I add an emoji with my written messages to emphasise tone? Should I leave a voicemail or just try calling again later, or send an SMS or Viber instead?
Often these decisions are mere reactions without any thought. At other times I procrastinate and debate with myself on how to craft a message so it’s ‘just right’, but in doing I may miss the moment to make an impact. I’ve learned that a key to this is to consider the purpose of my communication (the why) and the outcome I’m aiming for (the what). When I do this it enables me to choose the best method for communicating (the how). It took me a long time to appreciate that it is often the manner by which a message is communicated and its timing that determines effectiveness. And that’s where context comes in.
My communication doesn’t need to be perfect… it needs to be effective. In fact, it doesn’t always need to be done by me. Often someone else will convey the message I wanted without having to do anything… despite my ego wanting to take control (and the credit), I appreciate that sometimes less is more.
Insights are everywhere
To say what you want to say and achieve the outcome you desire can be aided by gaining insight into your audience because it provides context. Considering what is important to them and what are they thinking and feeling at this time is critical. I appreciate that we are not mind readers, however, we can observe others before we communicate, or gather quantitative data using various methods to gauge sentiment, or consider the unintended consequences of our messaging.
After being introduced to the concept of unintended consequences several years ago by a colleague, I thought about a number of training sessions I’d run, presentations I’d given, conversations I’d had and emails I’d sent that resulted in far from ideal reactions. In fact, on several occasions, I then had to go into damage control and spend more time clarifying my position on an issue and apologising for not considering others perspectives (thanks very much, JB, for the heads up on that one… I appreciate it).
If you are a great communicator at work and you have some tips for me, I’d love to hear them.
Ben Walsh – General Manager, Recruitment