I get a lot of emails in a day and I’m dismayed when I get a vague one. You know what I’m talking about….you get the email and before taking action you have to either respond with a question or call the person to clarify what it is they want. An effective communicator not only gets the point across but can really paint a picture with words. There is an art to conveying the complexity of an interesting idea in written or spoken words. Seth Godin said…what differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people, is the ability to bring their ideas to reality. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s actually creating the product or growing the business that’s the hard part. If you want to bring your idea to reality, you need to be able to communicate it effectively to the people around you.
Here are a few elements to consider for good communication:
1. Clarity: Say exactly what you mean. Clarity does take some thought, but more than anything it’s a habit you develop, over time, by being clear when you write or speak. If people have to email you back for further information it wastes your time and theirs.
2. Be Specific: Get in the habit of using the names of things, instead of “the document” use “the overview brochure.” Instead of “the restaurant,” use “Baxter’s.” List the people you want in the meeting by name and give some thought to what they might think about beforehand and what they should bring to the meeting.
3. What, When, Where: Include the date, time and location. How about the phone number of the meeting place or a link to the directions? You’ll often have the website in front of you when you’re setting up the meeting anyway. Think of things that will simplify the communication process. Again, the more you do this the easier it gets.
4. Call Me: Always give people a phone number to call if they have questions.
5. Reiterate: Reiterate things you’ve said before. No one is as interested in your idea or project as you are, so they often forget what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Help them out, remind them where you are in the process and where you’re headed.
6. The Habit of Proofing: Develop the priceless habit of proofing before you hit send. Most people will proof a document, but developing the habit of proofing your emails before they go out, not only catches mistakes, but gives you a moment to clarify your message so you don’t have to later. As you read the email, give some thought to places where you are being vague. Developing the habit of proofing your emails not only catches mistakes, but gives you a moment to refine your message so you won’t have to clarify it later.
7. Be Bold: If the email is long make sure you call attention to the most important elements by making them bold. It makes it easier for people to digest what you’re saying and find the information they need quickly without having to re-read the whole email.
8. Understand Individual Communication Styles: One of the challenges people face when communicating effectively is understanding individual communication styles. If you are running into communication challenges on a regular basis and can’t figure them out, you might want to explore executive coaching. A good executive coach will have the tools and the skill to help you understand your own communication challenges and the unique communication styles of those around you. I can personally recommend Baker & Daboll Executive Coaching. I’m learning a lot, and I considered myself a fairly competent communicator to begin with.
There’s an avalanche of new business communication tools out there, if you want to be successful you’ll need to know two things… how to use them effectively and how to communicate your ideas efficiently to the people around you. Here’s what Seth Godin has to say on the matter: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/06/email-checklist.html
I’d love to hear other comments, ideas, tools or tips for communicating more effectively. I think this would make a great workshop topic!