Communicating for results – consider your audience

Once upon a time:

  • I had a manager who attested that she was a good communicator – it was just that everyone else was a bad listener.  And then I tendered my resignation.
  • I had a colleague that claimed that she wanted to ensure everyone was having a good time – and then proceeded to order food for all of us based on what she thought we would like.
  • I worked with an organization that were making major changes to how they provisioned service based on recommendations from a book that the CIO loved.  They saw multiple “shadow IT” projects, groups, and employees pop up shortly thereafter.

It always amazes me that people claim to be good communicators but do not understand what they are trying to achieve.  I’ve asked some folks what they were trying to achieve when planning strategic communications, and the answer that I received most often was “to tell people what I think they need to know”.   It is staggering how little consideration is given to the audience.

The sea of e-mail is a perfect example of “the medium is the message” – sure, you can announce major changes through a widespread e-mail, but then you are pretty much just doing the change to people, not for people.

If e-mails are too impersonal, posters are even worse.  We really need to stop calling both posters and e-mail “communication”.  Unless it is truly 2-way, it’s not communication.

How can you be successful?

1. Tell people what you are going to tell them.  This is where e-mail can be appropriate.
2. Tell them, and allow them to ask questions.  This is where “town-halls”, “fireside chats”, or departmental meetings are appropriate.
3. Tell them what you just told them.  This is where e-mail and posters can be appropriate.

Like a project can only be truly successful if it meets cost, time, and scope requirements, communications can only be successful if they consider the receiver’s requirements.

How do you like to communicate with people for maximum effect?  What has worked well?  What has been such a spontaneously disaster that you still laugh about it today?

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About Jason H Zalmanowitz
I am a nerdy Management Consultant / Project Manager with a MBA, have spent the majority of my career working for consulting firms in Calgary, and I race in triathlons because of (and thanks to) my wife. As a Project Manager, I have managed field implementations, strategy development projects, software development projects, and hardware implementation projects. As a consultant, I have helped companies articulate how and why they are going to implement and interact with sustaining technology to support their business.

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