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June 30, 2010

Workplace Email Communications Strategy: A communication pitfall you’ll kick yourself if you don’t avoid

Too often, I see communication treated as a “check off the box” activity.

“I’ve sent the memo,” I hear, meaning that communication has been accomplished, and you are finished.

Getting information out is just that – getting information out.  Nothing more.  To truly communicate, you need to know that the information was received and understood.  That is, if you want to move someone to action, it often requires you to repeat your message and to give your audience the opportunity to ask questions.  Research shows the average prospect needs to hear a message seven times before they take action.  Employees don’t need quite this same attention—their number is probably closer to three to five times—but it still takes a few reiterations for the message to sink in. 

Doing a little and thinking you are done is one of the most common traps I see leaders fall into.  The downside is a lack of information, skepticism, mistrust, confusion, or worse yet, inaction among those you are trying to reach.

 Information and communication are not the same.  There are four components that distinguish communication from information. In order to truly communicate, you must:
  • Understand your audience:  Adjust your message to best match your audience.  Communicate to them, not just to anyone.  You can’t just share data; you need to shape information in a way that has meaning to and resonates with a particular audience.  Think of it as the difference between a bookkeeper printing out financial reports for you, and a controller or CFO interpreting the data into critical information that is important to help you understand or make decisions.
  • Engage your audience: Involve them to get their respect, interest and attention – not to mention great ideas!  Ask questions and use empathy to convey sincerity.
  • Be truthful and direct:  You must have respect for people so that they will reciprocate that respect and buy in to your communications.  You maintain that reciprocal respect through the integrity of your communications and through the consistency of your words and actions.
  • Plan your method for communicating:  Email is not the best way to communicate.  Face-to-face, in person, “live”—whatever you want to call it, this is best when communication is about a tough issue or is a tough message.  And, remember, there’s no winging it—every communication, even those that are in person, needs to be strategic, prepared for and planned.
Know the difference to make a difference with your communication and results.
What have you “checked off” recently—before ensuring that you achieved your desired outcome?
- David Grossman
workplace email, work email
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