Communication is so foundational that it might seem trite to talk about it specifically. On the other hand, we use so many different communication channels that I think it’s easy to lose track of how easy it is to miscommunicate.
In this short article I want to share some reminders about communication in general and bring the idea to the top of your mind for a few minutes.
I think you’ll find the time well spent.
Let's get communicative!
For more detailed information listen to the audio version of the podcast or watch the livestream recording.
Reminder: What is a Business Principle?
When I talked about what made a business principle I ended up here:
A business principle is a concept that is both foundational and relevant to all businesses.
This set a pretty high bar when it came to identifying what were business principles and what were strategies, missions and tactics.
Communication made the cut and that’s what I want to cover today.
What is Communication?
At its core, the concept of communication is straightforward. Communication is the transfer of information from one person to another. Of course, while the concept of communication is simple, effectively communicating is another thing entirely.
Why is communication a business principle?
The ability to communicate effectively across your organization and to the wider world of vendors and customers is certainly fundamental to the success of your business. Since the transfer of information is a key part of any business it’s clear that communication is one of the clearest principles of business.
Communication happens whether you meant it to or not...
Every time you communicate the entirety of the experience is part of the communcaition
- the tone you use
- the clothes you're wearing
- the environment around you or your recipeint or both
- the words you choose
- the channel you use
What are the components of communication?
While we’re not going to do a complete study of communication here I think it’s worth noting the basic components here.
Note: These were not invented by me and when I tried to source them I had absolutely no luck finding the actual smart person that came up with them. Please comment or email me at email@example.com if you know the source and I’ll add it!
While each of these is important there are three I think bear specific discussion in the context of business.
There is a tendency to reduce the concept of communication to written and verbal channels. It’s worth noting that each of our five senses is integral in how we perceive the information we are receiving about our environment and; therefore, it’s important to consider each of them as we work on our communications for our business.
Does your message change depending on what channel you’re using? Should it?
The idea of message is layered. One layer is the information we want to share. The layer that I think is often missed is the message we sent ‘surrounding’ the message we intend.
An easy way to look at this is with video conferencing. When you’re joining a video conference everything that is visible to your audience subtly (or not so subtly) becomes part of your message. If your desk is tidy… that’s part of the message. If your desk is cluttered then that becomes part of your message as well. In order to ensure that our video is communicating the message we meant to transfer it’s important to look at everything that’s visible in the frame and see how it supports or detracts from that message.
Another great example of this is body language. Most personal communication is actually achieved through our body language and not the words we say.
The same issues can be applied to each channel that we use to communicate.
Interference is all the ‘stuff’ that gets in the way of transferring your pure message from you to your recipient. This includes the way you encode the message as the sender (biased based on your experience and context), the way your recipient decodes the message and any barriers or obstacles in between.
If we assume that 1:1, in-person, communication is the most effective then for each step away from that we must take more care to reduce ambiguity and the possibility of misinterpretation.
- Look at what’s in the frame and make sure it reflects the message you want to convey.
- Get your audio right first.
- Remember you’re on camera!
- Put your contact information in your email signature.
- Add a greeting for each recipient on the first email of the day.
- Only ‘reply to all’ for distribution or notification. For items requiring action - reply to the person responsible for the action.
- When writing an email, assume the person you want to read it least is going to get a copy.
- Never use email as the first communication of bad news… make the call or meeting then follow up with an email.
- If you’re angry and can’t stop yourself from writing… remove the email addresses from the TO, CC & BCC then save the draft and look at it later before sending.
- Be clear & concise.
- Remember there is no emotional context in email unless you put it there.
- Never say ‘Bye’ before your customer does.
When it comes to texting in business I use it very sparingly myself with close colleagues. The most important thing to remember about texting is that it has even less emotional context than email and the shorthand that is often used can lead to confusion or miscommunication.
Social media is still very much the wild west of communication as businesses struggle to not only keep up with platforms and trends but also explore new ways to use these tools to promote their services, products & brands. Just be sure you're using the tool to work for you and that you don't end up working for the tool.
We can’t all get a degree in communication but it is important that we are continuously practicing that craft to better share our ideas and expectations and value to our customers, team and business partners.
Here are a few things you can do to help improve the value of communication in your business.
Answer the question: How does your communication in each channel support or reflect your Vision?
Create your own communication guidelines and share them with your team.
Take a new look at communication and reinvest in the intentional use of language and tools to share your message.
What’s your favorite communication tool for small business? Why? Drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!
How do you communicate for your small business? Share your own thoughts and guidelines! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll read some on the show!
Click the link above or use your favorite pod catcher to listen to the full episode.
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