Communicating less is more

How do you communicate?

Extra Communications

This subject has interested me for some years.

As a change manager and a father of two I am constantly surprised by the difficulty we have in communicating effectively.

If I had a pound / dollar for every time a senior manager said “I cannot understand why my staff are not wholeheartedly embracing my changes” I would be a richer man.

Here are some techniques that have helped me as a change leader, (but I have not necessarily always stuck to, because THIS IS REALLY HARD stuff):

  • START BY LISTENING. Let the person or group you are communicating with have their say first. Be supportive and show that you have heard them and will act if necessary. This gives them a chance to clear their minds of their own agenda and then they are able to listen to you.
  • Make sure the listener is READY TO HEAR, are they mentally in a place to absorb what you are communicating? Fear of change, anxiety for their project / team and work overload are typical indicators to look out for. If these exist at the time of the communication, then assume that those listening will not hear.
  • Keep it simple. Communicate ONE IDEA AT A TIME. As soon as we communicate a new idea recipients start to process the implications. This fills their heads with their own dialogue. – Not a great time to introduce another new idea. This takes patience and some bravery (when will you get another chance to communicate?)
  • REPEAT YOURSELF, lots of times, in different formats. A simple message repeated at every opportunity works well. Team briefings, company wide emails, intranet, blogs, wiki’s, notice boards, email footers, etc. In fact anywhere you can repeat the message is useful – so long as you are consistent and simple.
  • KEEP REPEATING the message until you hear that “so and so” has had a similar idea. At that point start supporting their idea.  (It is no longer yours).

Repeating myself  is a technique that I use a lot. Some staff get the message straight away, others take longer, some never really understand. When you are really bored with repeating yourself, don’t stop, keep it up until…..

…..you see team members explaining to each other in their own words.

Now you know that you have communicated.

In short, communicate, less, more. Plant a seed then support and steer any conversations that make it grow.

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This weeks inspiration –  Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show.

“Confused? You need to listen more closely, particularly to what I said second.”

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About Adam Blackie

A career Freelance Accountant who specialises in leading helping others to hold onto their money.
This entry was posted in communication, Implementing Change, Interim Management, Leadership, leading change management and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Communicating less is more

  1. Rachel says:

    Thanks for this, Adam – a really insightful look at communication. I also came across this article about communicating changes which has similar messages to your guide. It mentions the importance of tailoring the means of communication to your audience. How would you go about this?

    • Adam Blackie says:

      Rachel,

      Thank you for commenting and for linking back to the Practicus article. It does share the themes that I have outlined above.

      On the subject of your question re. tailoring the means of communication it says: “The critical point [in project communications] here is to ensure that the communication is appropriate for the audience, culture and level of engagement needed.” and I fully agree.

      Having worked with many different types of organisation I recognise that some are very formal in their communications e.g. management messages cascade through a hierarchy of formal briefings, regular update emails and formal newsletters via intranets. Others, usually smaller / younger organisations, are lacking regular structure or content, allowing teams to spread the word more or less informally amongst themselves, with wiki’s and intranets providing content and context for team discussions.

      The approach I take is to recognise and use the formal system if one exists, and then to try to understand which channels the organisation really uses and to focus most attention on these.

      The importance of communication channels also changes throughout a project. It usually start as face to face or face to group. The key here is to be authentic, honest and open about the changes, their likely impact and benefits. This is part of the testing stage described by Practicus and is a time to refine the message.

      Project communication usually finishes with a celebration of some sort. The project has formally ended, is now business as usual and we made it has happen; and as an added benefit it also signals that there no going back.

      Adam.

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