Having a hard time getting results because no one is listening?
"What we have here is failure to communicate."
This movie line (plucked from the 1967 hit "Cool Hand Luke") speaks to the heart of why we can't seem to get the attention of our co-workers
Whether communicating with our colleagues, our boss or our customers, a failure to get your message across can spell trouble in the simplest situations.
Inboxes are stuffed. People multitask in meetings. Plans change and nobody tells you. More than 90% of office frustration can be traced back to miscommunication. If you've been on the receiving end, no doubt you may have missed a few steps yourself.
These 7 best practices will get you heard.
In the Inbox
Simplicity. School rewarded us for long, complicated writing. Put that practice to bed. In 95% of your communications, if you want action, get to the point within the first paragraph.
Executives will tell you "If you want my attention, tell me what you want from me in the first sentence. If you think I need more information, put that in the following paragraph and I'll read it if I need to." This helps leaders triage the hundreds of emails they get throughout the day. Don't skimp on the information - just place it strategically.
Action-Oriented Subject Line.Most marketers will tell you your subject line is critical to get action. Next time you need to get attention in an email, use a subject line with the action you want the recipient to take.
For instance, if you have something attached you want your recipient to read, try adding "ATTACHMENT FOR REVIEW" to the front of your subject line. Is there a more pressing issue going on? Try adding "URGENT: ACTION NEEDED". This makes most readers sit up and take notice. TIP: Don't overuse urgency or risk being the boy who cried wolf.
Beyond the Inbox
Pick Up the Phone. Just because you sent an email does not mean you've communicated effectively. If you haven't received a response, don't put it off - call them. Be sure to (a) ask if its a good time for them and (b) get right to the point.
Set a Meeting.When email isn't getting through, get on the calendar! This way you have someone's full attention and you can talk through what is going on and what you need from them.
Mass Communication. There are so many ways to reach other employees. Use strategy to spread big news with: brown bag lunches, bulletin boards, cafeteria postings, cascading communication trees, change booklets, corporate newsletter, demonstration, department meeting, focus groups, frequently asked questions, desk drop, intranet, one-on-one meetings, posters, presentations, project newsletters, roadshows, town hall meetings, training courses, videos, voicemails, webcast, word of mouth, and workshops.
Explain Change. Did something change in your world? For gods sakes don't keep it to yourself! Be sure that everyone impacted is in the know. Think about every level - your team, your boss, colleagues on other teams, customers, support people, etc. - and consider what this change will mean for them. Step into their shoes and spell out the details of the change, how it will impact them, and what they need to know and do to be successful. The more specific you can be with dates, times, places, and more, the more your communication will be appreciated. Don't have all the details yet? Not to worry. Even giving people a 'heads up' that change is coming helps them prepare.
Plan Ahead. When something new is on the horizon, make sure communication is part of your plans. A good rule of thumb is, the more detailed the plans, the more frequent the communications as a group should be. If you're leading the project, summarize calls and meetings in follow up emails with action items for each person.
Three-time national award-winner, Holly Larsen, is a 14-year veteran marketing communications professional. As an expert in healthcare communications and brand building, she is often invited to consult with well-known brands such as AT&T Healthcare, Brown & Toland Medical Group, Panadol, Kaiser Permanente, and McKesson Corporation.