It seems like a long time since good grammar and a bit of “Miss Manners” drove good communications. But nowadays, text messages have tossed spelling- and words altogether- out the window and Jimmy Kimmel has made mean tweets something to aspire to.
In the business world, however, strong communication remains essential. Technology has relaxed the rules, but your team members can't do their jobs well — and clients may run away — if you don't communicate effectively.
Technology can be friend or foe in communications. Become aware of the following 5 communications no-no's, and you can improve your message to the world.
#1. Succumbing to electronic interruptions
Electronic devices now appear on every flat surface, from lunch to conference room tables. It is not unusual to see people interacting with their phones, rather than with the people seated around them. When you give priority to the phone over an employee receiving a performance review or a client who took the time to meet with you in-person, you deliver a very powerful message: your phone is more important than live people.
Unless a serious emergency requires you to stay connected, turn all sound off (yes, vibrate is still a sound), and focus on the people around you. If the temptation is too strong, hand devices that you don't need for the meeting to a trusted person outside of the room.
#2. Providing incomplete information
Your employees may know how you think, but they can't read your mind. Yet, how many times have you assigned a project based on desired outcome, rather than clearly communicating vital details?
You won't get the results you expect if you don't clearly define the required activity and quality checkpoints. Your need to plan the who, what and how, and broadcast that information to your staff.
Technology can help with the planning. An intuitive Project Management System (PMS) lets you identify every step and person needed in the process. PC Magazine's Editors' Choice list currently gives Zoho Projects the highest rating, but do your own research to find the right fit for you and your team.
But, even a PMS doesn't mean that you should replace verbal communication with fancy flow charts and graphs. Discuss every detail with staff members and invite questions.
#3. Not knowing your audience
It is common to deliver information without first considering the mindset of the audience. Particularly when delivering bad news, your choice of words can severely affect the message your audience hears. Do you want them to work with you or do you want to enrage them?
Regardless of your message, everyone hears what's in it for (or against) them, so there's a big difference between telling employees about new cost-cutting policies based on profits, versus saying that saving money saves jobs.
Messages to clients must target who they are from both a business and personal standpoint. At no time do they want you to mistake them for someone else or recommended substituting red widgets for orange ones when they previously told you that red is never acceptable.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems help you get the facts right and show that you care. Why not start with a tool that you probably use every day right now? Many CRM systems already integrate with Microsoft Office 365, but my client, Microsoft, might point out that their software's advanced tools already provide the functionality that puts vital customer information at your fingertips.
#4. Leaving holes in the collaboration process
If you schedule a meeting or call with remote team members who all seem to be spouting different facts and figures, it's likely that you didn't ensure that they all have up-do-date reference materials. A phone conversation between team members who need to collaborate on an annual report together wastes time when members are looking at different drafts. Similarly, client comments on the custom software program that you sent last week are meaningless if they can't see the significant changes made since that time.
A good online conferencing system, like the one provided through Nextiva, certainly helps keep everyone on the same page. And, file sharing tools can help the collaboration process, ensuring that everyone has instant access to the most current files without concern for the file size limitations of email.
#5. Choosing the wrong communication tool
Just because a customer chooses to spout off complaints on Twitter does not mean that you have to respond in kind. You need to consider many factors, such as detail, confidentiality and even PR when choosing how to resolve issues. By all means, write a quick tweet to let the Twittersphere know that you care about customer concerns, but then pick the best way to interact with the client directly.
Twitter campaigns are great for correcting minor misconceptions about your products or services. But, you may need to get the topic out of the public arena with a phone call, email or text message to get the conversation offline as quickly as possible.
Hasty communication can make waste
All of these habits have one thing in common: rapid communication often alienates the people whom you most value. As the pace of business continues to increase, communication is one area where you want to slow down.
Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at www.CarolRoth.com. She also has an action figure made in her likeness.