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I was talking with a friend a while back and his company was transitioning to Slack. Everyone was so pumped. They seemed to think that all their communication problems were going to vanish. And then, in a more recent conversation, he admitted that real communications had gotten much worse. We make a mistake to think that a flurry of text messages all day long constitutes effective communications. And so, in this blog, I want to zero in on five communication problems that are particularly problematic. Admittedly these are not unique to Slack or any other communication tool.

1. Writing or speaking with authority when you don’t understand the situation

It’s worth understanding that some people are much more confident than others. I know people who are just not that smart and knowledgeable yet they speak with so much confidence that others hang on their every word.

This is a problem in project work, especially. In projects, teams are venturing into uncharted territories. We can’t always take the word of someone just because they speak or write with authority. Teams sometimes need to push back and question everything.

When one of your colleagues, or the project manager, or sponsor assures you that something will work, or should be tried, ask questions until you fully understand the situation and why this solution is best.

Workplace eyeroll: Receiving a message where someone speaks with authority when they don't really understand the situation #business #communication #projectmanagement #management #productivity #leadership Share on X

2. Weak communications – is niceness a factor?

Years ago, I wrote a blog about niceness – and my concern that it could be a problem. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of kindness. But the kind of niceness where people are afraid to push back on others or speak openly and honestly about a conflict ultimately results in communication problems.

Years ago, someone told me that I used the word ‘think’ too frequently. I was being nice. Instead of saying please do task 349 on the list and when can I have it, I would say, I think we need to finish task 349. When can you get it done? What was the point of starting a sentence with ‘I think?’ There was no question about it. We needed to get task 349 done. And this friend expressed the concern to me that I was undermining my credibility.

Let’s face it – some words and sentences are more powerful than others. And communications which are written with words that are weak do not carry the weight that other more powerful communications carry – whether they are written or spoken.

3. Excessive wordiness or lack of clarity

Have you ever gotten an email that raised more questions than it answered? Or have you attended a meeting with a long-winded speaker and wished you could be on the golf course instead?

One of my husband’s favorite mantras is Shakespeare’s line from Hamlet: “brevity is the soul of wit.” As one who thinks by writing, brevity doesn’t come naturally to me.

I think there is a balance which we should all strive to find in our communications. The goal is to write or say just enough that your audience gets what it needs from the communication.

And so, ask yourself what it is that you want your audience to get. Do you want them to understand how to solve a problem or to attend a meeting, prepared to discuss a certain subject? The options abound. Until you know what it is you want to achieve through the communication, wait to create it to reduce your communication problems.

Before you hit send, ask yourself what you want your reader to get. Is your message concise and clear? #business #projectmanagement #communication #management #productivity #leadership Share on X

4. Failing to know your audience

After you have decided what you want your audience to do with the communication that you are planning to generate, ask yourself if you know who your audience is. I’ve gone to meeting after meeting over the years and felt like the speaker was talking with someone who I didn’t recognize. What was going on?

And I’ve read emails and wondered why I was on the distribution list. Do we need to copy all on everything we send from our computers?

If you are writing a message to your project sponsor, ask yourself what he or she needs or wants to know. That is going to be a different email from an email to a subject matter expert who you are using on a particular task. And the writing style may need to be varied some.

Consider your audience before you create that communication.

Failing to know your audience will doom your communication from the start. #business #projectmanagement #communication #management #productivity #leadership Share on X

5. Using meetings for long speeches

Does anyone like sitting through long, boring speeches? So why do so many leaders use meeting time to regale the audience with the state of this or that matter? Why can’t we reduce the message to writing and send it so that people can read it at their will? Is it because we think people are listening? And therefore, objective accomplished – everyone knows what they need to know.

Meeting time is expensive! Very expensive. We need to make the most of it, and to do that, meetings should be about solving problems that are better solved through collaboration, identifying concerns, or even about team building opportunities.

If you want to read a great book on how to avoid bad meetings, try Patrick Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting

Whenever people waste time and money, the project suffers. There will be waste. That’s part of innovation. But how can we reduce the waste? One way is to learn to communicate more effectively.

Let’s face it. We are all bombarded with messages all day long and part of the communication problems in our organization result from the time constraints that we all face.

And these days, with automation, we should be spending more time to communicate the how and the why, and less time on the what. Even without AI tools that can probably handle the what, it’s the why that requires a more personal touch, and it’s the how that can change – sometimes quickly.

Death by Meeting...more than just a book title. Make the most of meetings and if it could have been an email...email it! #communcation #business #productivity #projectmanagement Share on X