The Importance of Communicating Well

Communication. It’s a word that everyone agrees is important, yet many people have difficulty accomplishing it well. There are a lot of measures to define communication effectiveness. The one that I use is to ask myself 6 questions about my communication to ensure that I am communicating well individually and organizationally to build trust, and also ensure that I am accomplishing what I say I will accomplish.


When I think through the purpose of a message/conversation, I ask myself what I am trying to accomplish.  I think we’ve all seen the e-mail chains in which everyone makes a comment so that our in-boxes explode over minor issues in the office. Before just responding like everyone else, ask yourself if you need to respond and what that will accomplish. If you can think of a better way to communicate, managers typically respond well to your suggestions if it will save time, money, increase productivity, etc. You might suggest electronic surveys or dropbox options to create centralized locations, rather than having long, unnecessary email threads.


There’s nothing worse than being left out of the loop.  You didn’t get the memo? Nothing hurts the morale of a team more than not being on the same page. Before sending out that e-mail or scheduling that meeting, ask yourself: Am I communicating to everyone that needs to know?  As your team grows larger, this task becomes even harder.  One project management formula that I like to use in calculating the number of communication channels or lines is N(N-1)/2.  For example, if I am on a four person team, then I have 6 communication lines: 4(4-1)/2=6.  If I am on a 30 person team, then I have 435 communication lines: 30(30-1)/2=435. If people are being left out, then I recommend apologizing to those people directly and working together with them to devise a way of making sure they start receiving your communications.


Have you ever entered a meeting only to discover that you were not entirely prepared to handle the CEO’s questions? I recommend creating a list of all the important items that need to be addressed by asking yourself: Have I said everything that needs to be said, while being concise?  Once that list is created, triple-check to ensure that everything is there. It’s no fun having a proposal turned down simply because of lack of preparation.


Location is often overlooked when communicating with others.  Telling a team member an important detail as you pass them in the hall might not be the best idea.  Schedule a meeting in a location where the person is likely to be able to focus on the topic at hand and adequately document action steps that were produced from that meeting.

Have you ever made a decision when you were angry or upset that you later regretted? I know I have.  One question I ask myself when I am feeling strong emotions is: does it need to be done right now? Often, in our anger it feels good to take action. Yet the decisions we make when we aren’t thinking clearly can often be disastrous.  Many times the decisions we make do not have to be made immediately.  My next question is: when is the latest I can make this decision without impacting the schedule? I put that date down on my calendar and give myself some time to cool down and think through the issue objectively.  Typically, 24 hours is a good amount of time for me to step away and become objective.


How might this be perceived?  Try to step outside of yourself for a moment and imagine how others on your team or in your organization might view the way you are communicating.  You might be relaying important information, yet you are raising your voice and causing others to feel uncomfortable.  If others feel threatened by the way you communicate, then they will lose trust in you and the team.  One last thing to remember, ensure that team members understand what you have communicated by having them put it in their own words.  I have taught many concepts to clients who nod their heads as if they understand what I am saying.  Then when I ask them to summarize the concept, they are unable.  I know that I need to keep working to figure out a way to help them understand. Simply repeating the same thing over and over is not enough.

With these six questions, you can ensure that you are communicating well in your organization. Improved communication will enable you to see growth in yourself and your team as others begin trusting that you accomplish what you say you are going to accomplish.

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By: David Murphy, M.Ed., NCC, Career Solutions Group