Here are the five communication rules I live by when I start a project and what drives it throughout the entire process.
The written word in communication
While some of your communication is oral, another part is expressed through written words such as emails, spreadsheets or reports. When structuring your written forms of communication, there are several different elements that must come into play to make sure your message is clear and concise.
First, you must decide what type of written communication is best for the situation and consider your audience. Will a simple email suffice? Does the situation call for a detailed report? Are you speaking to the owner of the company or the IT staff? Depending on your audience and the structure of your document, your message and tone will vary.
Second, remember to break up your text so that it is scannable and easy to read. You want the reader to be able to pick out the key information by just scanning the document.
Third, brush up on your grammar skills before you start writing. Providing your clients with error-free writing displays your professionalism. If proofreading and grammar checking is not your forte, ask a coworker to help make sure your correspondence is planned, organized and most importantly, mistake-free.
Listening is key
Most people consider themselves good listeners, but in actuality, most people are not. Sure, they hear what you are saying, but are they really taking in the information? Do they understand what you are trying to tell them? In communication, listening is just as important as talking. In some situations, it’s the most important part. You must understand and receive messages just as well as you send them out. Try actively listening to what your client wants. Engage with their needs and understand their wants. Clear your mind of all other thoughts and concerns. Know when to be quiet and not interrupt. Follow your active listening plan and show your clients that they are your top priority.
Planning is essential
Must we always have a plan when we start a project? Not unless you want it to be successful. A firm communication plan doesn’t always have to be a detailed strategic or business plan (although it should be at the beginning of the project), but you do always need to ask yourself these questions: who needs what, what do they need and when do they need it? How much detail or lack of detail should I provide? Can this be a simple email or do you need to send a spreadsheet or report along with it? What kind of person am I talking to? What are my obstacles? What are my challenges? Tackle the who, what, where, when, why and how and you will see the worth of planning before you take action on your project.
Identify your barriers
There are so many obstacles and barriers – personality, cultural, political – to overcome and acknowledge when you are preparing to communicate with someone. Realizing that everyone does not require the same amount or type of information will help you know how to best craft your message and get the answers you need. At Boomer Consulting our knowledge of Kolbe and use of Kolbe A to determine communication styles has helped us determine how to adapt our communication methods depending on who we are talking to. We have determined that if you can learn to change your firm communication plan and tailor it to each of your clients based on their learning styles, you can change the way the game is played.
Don’t beat around the bush
This rule is simple and probably something your mom told you when you were growing up. Be clear. Be concise. Be direct. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Period.
Everyone has their own rules and checklists to follow to deliver great communication. Make your communication count. Identify your personal firm communication plan and you’ll take your projects farther than you could have imagined.
To learn more about implementing project management and workflow tracking successfully in your firm, download the whitepaper “Digital Workflow Tracking: A Better Way to Work.”
Reprinted with permission from Boomer Consulting, Inc.