Secrets of Successful Communication

By August 24, 2018 No Comments

It is no news how crucial good communication is to the success of a business, let alone of project, or product, launches. If you and your people aren’t all in the same page internally, your project or product won’t be cohesive and will most likely be missing parts by the time the launch comes around – causing delays, and therefore losses. At the same time, if you don’t communicate what you are creating to the public there’s also a huge chance you will fail. Think about it, if people don’t know that you’re launching something, what it is, how is works, when it starts, and so on, they will never magically think of looking for it.

Now, even though communication holds the key to a successful launch, to a better work environment, and to a more productive and effective team, is there such a thing as over-communicating? And furthermore, can over-communicating be a good thing during a launch?

Just now at lunch I was listening to a friend tell me about how frustrated she is with the number of endless meetings she has every week at her job. She’s a lead graphic designer for a local retailer and always tells me the company has a serious problem with getting sidetracked in meetings, as well as going over information that is available in the system. She often leaves meetings feeling like she didn’t accomplish much and that her time would have been better spent working towards on her tasks and goals. I know I’ve felt that way many times, and that this is a recurring problem in all types of companies. Therefore, below you’ll find ways to improve your communication and actually get things done.

Stand Up Meetings

A common practice within agile software development teams, stand up meetings became popular amongst many different industries thanks to Jeff Sutherland’s book and methodology on SCRUM. A stand up meeting is simply put a very quick and to-the-point meeting amongst all members of a team, in which each individual shares their successes and difficulties regarding what they’re working on. It’s a way to keep a team updated. Stand up meeting can happen as often as every single day (common in software development) at the start of the day, or once a week – it really depends on how crucial the update is for your project and team.

For a stand up meeting to be successful it should follow a few “rules”:

  • Everyone must be standing up.
  • It needs to be fast, lasting no more than 15 minutes (total). As people tend to lose focus after that period of time.
  • Everyone in the team must attend.
  • Each member of the team must answer: 1. What did I accomplish since we last met? 2. What will I work on next? 3. What obstacles are impeding my progress?
  • Set up the meetings on the calendar. Make it permanent. You need to make sure everyone is aware of when and where the meetings will happen.
  • During the meeting, only discuss the project the team is collectively working on. Leave any other topics, ideas, projects, and so on to be talked about afterwards.

3 Steps to Organizing a Stand Up Meeting:

  1. Stand up. Get in a circle around a desk, go to a designated room or area. This is crucial because being on your feet helps keep the meeting short.
  2. Without going into detail, each team member shares a little about what progress they’ve made, what they’re doing next and what’s a problem they’re having.         Tip: If any team members have more to add to the conversation – maybe they can help solve a problem somebody is having -, make sure they save the chat for after the stand up meeting is over. This way you will keep it fast and focused.
  3. Wrap it up. Leave a few minutes at the end for open conversation on additional updates and ideas. And then that’s it, you’re done. Quick and easy.

Now if stand up meetings aren’t right for you and your business, you still most certainly have some kind of weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meeting that focuses on updates. Not to mention all the other meetings we all set up everyday in the hopes of finding solutions to problems. In this case, here are a few ways to help you improve their efficiency.

Ways to Be More Efficient During Meetings

  1. Set an agenda. Sending an agenda in advance gives people the opportunity to prepare for the meeting, helping them keep their updates to the point, as well as allowing them time to prep questions.
  2. E-mail the update beforehand. Chances are, everyone who’ll attend a meeting will have at least a few bullet points regarding what they’ve done, what are some challenges or ideas they have, and what they’ll do next. Optimize time by having employees send their bullet points to their managers prior to the meeting.
  3. Update at department level only. Individual updates can be unnecessary or too lengthy depending on the nature of your meeting. Chose to focus on departamental updates instead, saving everybody precious time.
  4. Focus on the tangible. Get your direct reports to talk about something they learned since you last met, what is the number one challenge they’re facing and something they are grateful for. This way you’ll make your meetings more meaningful.
  5. Tie the meeting to the strategic plan. Get everyone in the meeting to talk about how the work they’re doing ties back in with a goal or strategy in your plan. Allow people to understand how their work impacts the company’s bottom line while keeping things focused.
  6. Set key performance indicators (KPIs). Instead of having people report on every single thing they’re working on, have them use KPIs to report how those efforts impacted your firm overall.
  7. Give them the opportunity to opt out. This obviously doesn’t mean they can always decide to skip on the meeting. However, if they have nothing to add because they’ve already updated you or the team then it’s clearly not necessary to force them to report in.
  8. Make sure every weekly meeting isn’t about reporting. If everyone is up-to-date on projects, it’s a good idea to use the meeting to talk about other things. A great way to do that is to ask questions and get answers that provide opinions and ideas.

In The Words of a CEO

We asked Michael Sengbusch, CEO of real-time digital assistant company Eletype about his take on successful communication:

Communication should be like CNN. Constant updates. There is no such thing as over-communication. It matters so much because it is the lifeblood of the company. Without effective communication, you can’t run the company efficiently. The trick is knowing how to communicate and where to communicate.”

When asked what he finds works best for his team to communicate at a higher level, which surprisingly enough is finding balance between online and offline interactions:

“For me, the definition of higher level communication is knowing how and when to leverage in-person conversation in conjunction with collaborative tools like Slack. We run our business via Slack channels and that handles 90% of our communication. We rarely, if ever, use email for internal communication. I reserve the other 10% for phone calls during our respective commutes and for team meetings.

In my opinion, higher level communication is open and team-based and can be difficult in a 1-on-1 format. When you have only weekly 1-on-1 meetings with each and every member of your team you aren’t only wasting time, but you are creating an environment where people don’t want to collaborate during team meetings. They instead save their questions, their concerns, their needs, for their 1-on-1 time. Not only is that inefficient, but it breeds suspicion and distrust because it fosters secrecy. Higher level communication happens when you provide a forum where your team feels like questions can be answered, concerns can be addressed, and most importantly they feel safe asking for help from other team members. Of course we have 1-on-1 meetings when needed, but I believe higher level communication happens out in the open.”

Communication is tricky but there are enough tools around to help out. How do you make the most of it?