Effective Communications


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Day-long workshop presented for the Terry Royer Institute at Lethbridge College

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  • A new business was opening and one of the owner’s friends wanted to send some flowers for the occasion. She went to the florist and ordered them. The next day the flowers arrived at the business and the card read “Rest in Peace”. The owner called the friend laughing about the joke. The friend was so angry she called the florist to complain. The florist replied, Look lady, I’m really sorry for the mix-up but can imagine this, somewhere there is funeral taking place and they have flowers with a card saying “Congratualtions on your new location.”
  • The most important thing about good communications: It’s not you It’s not the subject It’s not the venue It’s not the technology It’s….. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! Talking (or writing) so others will listen (or read) starts with understanding those others before you even begin. What should you know about the specific audience so you can adapt your approach each time. What basic facts you should know about any audience to learn how they will listen.
  • In HR situations – non-verbal communications can be just as important as verbals when considering applicants for a job
  • Breakdowns can occurr in three spots – the red lines represent brickwalls.
  • Sender -- Incorrect assumptions You have the right audience (everyone necessary) – did you leave anyone out? Did you include some people not necessary? Everyone likes to receive information the same way Everyone understands the issue equally Others? Sender - Poor execution Wrong method – sending bad news via e-mail, individual criticism in a public setting, talking about others behind their back, send too much formation so the really important stuff gets lost Wrong message – too much spin, using jargon (outsourcing, corporate restructuring) or just using improper language that muddles meaning Receiver – Poor listening Not paying attention – lost in all the stuff that comes out? Assuming that the information doesn’t concern you. Too busy to worry about directives from head office Distrust – who is sending the message? Do they speak for the company? What is the reputation of the sender? Perceptual filters – these are what can keep us from completely hearing a message – you only hear what you want to hear? We take in information from our sense but cannot process all of it – we gloss over some things, we skip others, our values, attitudes, beliefs and even personality can shape what we ignore and we absorb Information – lost in translation, information too spinny,
  • Remember this? On one level it is two people standing near an arch, on another it it is an old man – which is correct?
  • The first line is the original English – now imagine taking the English and running it through English to French translation software and taking the result to French to English software – this is the result. The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes language (or terminology) that the boss understands might be misinterpreted if it passes through a filter.
  • These commandments are guielines – you won’t be struck down if you don’t follow them 1 -
  • This complex organizational structure is actually more common than you think – where there may be direct and indirect reporting lines – where individuals may have multiple bosses – there may a combination of functional and geographic organizations, even some project based reporting lines thrown into the mix as well.
  • Flatter organizations with fewer connectors, make it easier to get information up and down the silos to and from the Big Cheese
  • Delays – information tends to travel slowly and information may sit in people in baskets for days, it may be bumped because of higher priority items. The more levels it has to pass through, the longer the delays. Filtering – the higher ups don’t want every minute detail; they want a summary, something they can remember if asked in the elevator. As it moves through each level, the more extraneous information gets carved off. Skipping levels going up could breed distrust. Dilution – they may want that summary combined with other summaries of similar projects. It may become some material to use in speech. Barriers and Passing Lanes to upward flow – depending on the type of organization, there may be some divides between management and workers. There may also be opportunities to make communications flow much better. Status and prestige may be a factor in communication from blue-collar staff to white collar management. Workers may feel they lack the ability to express themselves as their managers. They may also lack the resources to ensure that their communication goes up through the right channels. Backchannels – sometimes workers may not be aware of the invisible avenues of getting information up to the pointy end. Personal relations play a role that might influence where things go – good and bad Unionization or labour issues may also influence communication flow between unionized staff and management in the Us vs. Them environment. Physical distance may play a role. Maybe the managers are located in a different part of the building, different building or different community.
  • The Telephone Game (aka Successive Transmission) – depends on the flatness of an organization. As information moves down, through successive levels – the original message may be the same, but the tone and intent may change. What started as a suggestion by the CEO spoken in an informal meeting with a subordinate may become a directive from HR on the shop floor. Language – make sure the higher-ups speak the same language. It may not be a different ‘language’ but it could be different terminology. Higher-ups shouldn’t speak down to the workers (even if that is not their intent), but at the same time they shouldn’t be bogged down by jargon and buzzwords. Attitude, body language, tone and other factors play important roles as well. Planning – the information sent to the workers should be relevant, timely and not excessive. The information needs to come at the proper time and form that is most useful for staff. Changes to things concerning budgets or pay scales should have long lead times (months if possible) and come in multiple forms. Posting information on a website may not be sufficient. Barriers to downward flow Status and prestige may be a factor in communication from white collar management to blue-collar staff. Workers may feel they are being ‘talked down to’ by their managers. Managers need to be aware Backchannels – sometimes managers may not be aware of the invisible avenues of getting information to the right people at the bottom, so the information spreads. Unionization or labour issues may also influence communication flow between unionized staff and management in the Us vs. Them environment. Physical distance may play a role. Maybe the managers are located in a different part of the building, different building or different community.
  • There is a natural assumption that people in large organizations don’t know each other outside of work – in communities like Lethbridge or in smaller towns – the relationships are even more pronounced.
  • 1. Don't Meet Avoid a meeting if the same information could be covered in a memo, e-mail or brief report. One of the keys to having more effective meetings is differentiating between the need for one-way information dissemination and two-way information sharing. To disseminate information you can use a variety of other communication media, such as sending an e-mail or posting the information on your company's intranet. If you want to be certain you have delivered the right message, you can schedule a meeting to simply answer questions about the information you have sent. By remembering to ask yourself, "Is a meeting the best way to handle this?" you'll cut down on wasted meeting time and restore your group's belief that the meetings they attend are necessary. 2. Set Objectives for the Meeting Set objectives before the meeting! Before planning the agenda for the meeting, write down a phrase or several phrases to complete the sentence: By the end of the meeting, I want the group to… Depending on the focus of your meeting, your ending to the sentence might include phrases such as: …be able to list the top three features of our newest product, …have generated three ideas for increasing our sales, …understand the way we do business with customers, …leave with an action plan, …decide on a new widget supplier, or …solve the design problem. One benefit of setting objectives for the meeting is to help you plan the meeting. The more concrete your meeting objectives, the more focused your agenda will be. A second important benefit of having specific objectives for each meeting is that you have a concrete measure against which you can evaluate that meeting. Were you successful in meeting the objectives? Why or why not? Is another meeting required? Setting meeting objectives allows you to continuously improve your effective meeting process. 3. Provide an Agenda Beforehand Provide all participants with an agenda before the meeting starts. Your agenda needs to include a brief description of the meeting objectives, a list of the topics to be covered and a list stating who will address each topic and for how long. When you send the agenda, you should include the time, date and location of the meeting and any background information participants will need to know to hold an informed discussion on the meeting topic. What's the most important thing you should do with your agenda? Follow it closely! 4. Assign Meeting Preparation Give all participants something to prepare for the meeting, and that meeting will take on a new significance to each group member. For problem-solving meetings, have the group read the background information necessary to get down to business in the meeting. Ask each group member to think of one possible solution to the problem to get everyone thinking about the meeting topic. For example, to start a sales meeting on a positive note, have all participants recall their biggest success since the last meeting and ask one person to share his success with the group. For less formal meetings or brainstorming sessions, ask a trivia question related to the meeting topic and give the correct answer in the first few minutes of the meeting. These tips are sure-fire ways to warm up the group and direct participants' attention to the meeting objectives. 5. Assign Action Items Don't finish any discussion in the meeting without deciding how to act on it. Listen for key comments that flag potential action items and don't let them pass by without addressing them during your meeting. Statements such as We should really …, that's a topic for a different meeting …, or I wonder if we could … are examples of comments that should trigger action items to get a task done, hold another meeting or further examine a particular idea. Assigning tasks and projects as they arise during the meeting means that your follow-through will be complete. Addressing off-topic statements during the meeting in this way also allows you to keep the meeting on track. By immediately addressing these statements with the suggestion of making an action item to examine the issue outside of the current meeting, you show meeting participants that you value their input as well as their time. 6. Examine Your Meeting Process Assign the last few minutes of every meeting as time to review the following questions: What worked well in this meeting? What can we do to improve our next meeting? Every participant should briefly provide a point-form answer to these questions. Answers to the second question should be phrased in the form of a suggested action. For example, if a participant's answer is stated as Jim was too long-winded , ask the participant to re-phrase the comment as an action. The statement We should be more to-the-point when stating our opinions is a more constructive suggestion. Remember – don't leave the meeting without assessing what took place and making a plan to improve the next meeting!
  • What makes a good team? Communication Effective teams communicate effectively and frequently with each other and also communicate clearly and consistently with people outside the team about team activities. Effective internal communication allows these teams to make balanced decisions, handle conflict constructively and provide each other valuable feedback. Commitment Team members see themselves belonging to the team. They are committed to group goals above and beyond their personal goals and agendas. Trust Team members have faith in each other to honor commitments, maintain confidences, support each other and generally behave predictably and consistently. Purpose The team understands how it fits into the overall business of the organization. Team members know their roles, feel a sense of ownership, and can see how they personally, and as a team, make a difference. Involvement Everyone has a role on the team. Despite differences in roles, perspectives and experience, team members feel a sense of partnership with each other. Contributions are respected and expected. True consensus is reached when appropriate. Process Orientation High performing teams have a large number of process tools they can use when needed. Process tools would include: problem solving tools, planning techniques, regular meetings, agendas, and successful ways of dealing with problems, behavioral agreements, and ways to improve those processes within the team. Continuous Improvement The team understands the importance of continuous improvement, has the tools, knowledge and time at their disposal to make Continuous Improvement really happen. All improvement efforts are done in support of the organization's goals and objectives.
  • You are a prime candidate for groupthink if: Your team is Highly Cohesive. The team works well together, enjoys each other's company and has "bonded." Your team avoids Different Viewpoints. The team discounts contrary information and/or discourages dissent. They may even be insulated from other people or teams with different viewpoints. Your team makes Easy Decisions. Consensus comes easily - almost too easy. Silence is usually accepted as consent. Your team is Highly Stressed. The team is under high stress to deliver a quick solution.
  • You might think that you are using a lot of your brains by using a lot of big words – but if your readers don’t understand what you are trying to say – is that really the smart thing to do?
  • When in doubt, eliminate words – most of our common and well used phrases or cliches are very old when we used much more formal language – avoid cliches when possible.
  • Keep the language as neutral as possible
  • Effective Communications

    1. 1. Effective Communications James Frey
    2. 2. Outline for Today <ul><li>Intros and Icebreaker </li></ul><ul><li>Communication and leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Why communications break down </li></ul><ul><li>LUNCH </li></ul><ul><li>Upward, downward and lateral communication </li></ul><ul><li>Communications and team building </li></ul><ul><li>Tips for readable writing </li></ul>
    3. 3. Icebreaker <ul><li>Introduce yourself </li></ul><ul><li>Tell a story about…. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Can you find the nine people?
    5. 5. Congratulations!
    6. 6. <ul><li>The most important thing about good communications: </li></ul><ul><li>KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! </li></ul>
    7. 7. Know your Audience <ul><li>Baby Boomers (1946-66) – the TV generation </li></ul><ul><li>Gen X (1966-80) – the Computer generation </li></ul><ul><li>Gen Y (1980-2000) – the Texting / Digital Generation </li></ul><ul><li>What’s Next? (2001 - ????) </li></ul>
    8. 8. You know you are living and working in the 21st Century when…. <ul><li>You haven’t played solitaire with real cards in years. </li></ul><ul><li>You have 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three. </li></ul><ul><li>You e-mail the person who works in the desk next to you. </li></ul><ul><li>You don’t keep in touch with some family and friends because they aren’t on Facebook. </li></ul><ul><li>You dial 9 to get an outside line when you are at home. </li></ul>
    9. 9. You know you are living and working in the 21st Century when…. <ul><li>You’ve sat at the same desk for years but worked for three different organizations. </li></ul><ul><li>You use your cellphone after you pull into the driveway to see if someone can help you carry in the groceries. </li></ul><ul><li>Every TV commercial has a website at the bottom of the screen. </li></ul><ul><li>Leaving the house without your cellphone is a cause for panic. </li></ul><ul><li>You get up in the morning and go online before going to the bathroom. </li></ul>
    10. 10. What is Communications? <ul><li>Lascaux, France </li></ul><ul><li>– about 16,000 years ago </li></ul>
    11. 11. What is Communications? <ul><li>Writing – the development of the English Alphabet owes much to the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs. </li></ul>
    12. 12. What is Communications? <ul><li>The first books were copied by hand. </li></ul><ul><li>Gutenburg Bible in 1453 – first printed book </li></ul>
    13. 13. What is Communications? <ul><li>Newspapers developed around from 1609, with the first example in English in 1620. </li></ul><ul><li>First newspaper came to North America in 1690. </li></ul>
    14. 14. What is Communications? <ul><li>Cellphones </li></ul><ul><li>1940s - radio-phones for government & military </li></ul><ul><li>1984 - first ‘approved’ phone in the US </li></ul><ul><li>2001 - 3G network </li></ul><ul><li>2009 - 4.1 billion cellphones (60% of pop) </li></ul>
    15. 15. What is Communications? <ul><li>Harold Lasswell (1902-1978): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who (says) what (to) whom (in) what channel (with) what effect. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ the medium is the message” – a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. What is Communications? <ul><li>Communications in brief… </li></ul><ul><li>a sender transfers a message containing information to a receiver. </li></ul>
    17. 17. What’s not good Communications? <ul><li>“As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual Photo-ID security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their new cards in two weeks.” </li></ul><ul><li>Staff security memo, Microsoft Corp. </li></ul>
    18. 18. What’s not good Communications?
    19. 19. Why is Communications important? <ul><li>All management depends on good communications </li></ul>Management Planning Organizing Directing Controlling Productivity Communications TEAMS Carry out Plans, Directives, instructions, etc.
    20. 20. Why is Communications important? <ul><li>“No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We’ve been working on it for months. Now go act busy for a few weeks. I’ll let you know when it’s time to tell them.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- R&D supervisor, 3M Corp. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Why is Communications important? <ul><li>For Communications to be effective it must be: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate and detailed enough – provides needed information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timely – when it is needed most (before) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Valid and Reliable – sound logical, well written and come from the appropriate source </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Why is Communications important?
    23. 23. Forms of Communication <ul><li>Verbal </li></ul><ul><li>& </li></ul><ul><li>Nonverbal </li></ul>
    24. 24. Forms of Communication <ul><li>“ The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Peter Drucker </li></ul>
    25. 25. Forms of Communication <ul><li>Verbal Communications </li></ul><ul><li>speech (and utterances), writing, signs and symbols </li></ul><ul><li>Also includes listening and reading </li></ul>
    26. 26. Public Speaking <ul><li>“The average person at a funeral would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Jerry Seinfeld </li></ul>
    27. 27. Forms of Communication <ul><li>Critical for Verbal Communications </li></ul><ul><li>Know your subject – research </li></ul><ul><li>Develop an outline – logical sequence </li></ul><ul><li>Develop your skills – practice writing and presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Ask for feedback – from friends, audience </li></ul><ul><li>Relax! </li></ul>
    28. 28. Forms of Communication <ul><li>Non-verbal </li></ul><ul><li>Effectiveness of verbal depends on non-verbal cues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Body language (physical expression) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facial expression </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual communications – pictures and graphics – support the verbals </li></ul></ul>
    29. 29. Forms of Communication <ul><li>Non-verbals in HR situations </li></ul><ul><li>Posture – leaning in or out </li></ul><ul><li>Handshake </li></ul><ul><li>Clothing, hair and shoes </li></ul><ul><li>Eye-contact </li></ul><ul><li>Hands </li></ul>
    30. 30. Consequences of Communication Problems <ul><li>“This project is too important, we can’t let things that are more important interfere with it.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Advertising Manager to staff, UPS </li></ul>
    31. 31. Communication Breakdowns Breakdowns with the sender Breakdowns with the receiver Problem with message
    32. 32. Communication Pitfalls <ul><li>With the sender </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor planning – incorrect assumptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor execution – wrong method and / or message </li></ul></ul><ul><li>With the receiver </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor listening </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Distrust </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Filters </li></ul></ul><ul><li>With the information </li></ul>
    33. 33. Can you find the nine people?
    34. 34. Lost in Translation <ul><li>I will arrive in Montreal at nine o’clock in the morning on Wednesday. Please have a car ready at the airport to take me to the morning meeting. Also, please advise my afternoon meeting to have all of the documents ready for me to sign. Let him know that I am excited about the pending deal. </li></ul>I arrive the morning to Montreal around nine hours Wednesday. To have to heat more please which is ready with the airport to be taken to me at the general assembly. At my afternoon meeting adviser also please, to have all the documents which are ready with me to sign. To inform that I become excited on the trembling agreement.
    35. 35. Effective Listening <ul><li>1. Listen & Pay Attention! </li></ul><ul><li>2. Don’t assume they need a solution </li></ul><ul><li>3. Ask questions if you don’t understand </li></ul><ul><li>4. Wait for them to finish </li></ul><ul><li>5. Don’t jump to conclusions </li></ul>
    36. 36. Effective Listening <ul><li>6. Maintain eye contact </li></ul><ul><li>7. Don’t check your watch or clock </li></ul><ul><li>8. If you don’t have time, ask them to come back </li></ul><ul><li>9. Don’t argue back </li></ul><ul><li>10. After they are done, don’t hide your own opinion </li></ul>
    37. 37. Ineffective Listening <ul><li>“We know communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with employees at this time.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Memo to AT&T Staff </li></ul>
    38. 38. Up – Down – All Around
    39. 39. Up – Down – All Around Big Cheese Other Cheese
    40. 40. Up – Down – All Around Big Cheese
    41. 41. Upward Communication <ul><li>Talking to the Boss </li></ul><ul><li>Delays </li></ul><ul><li>Dilution </li></ul><ul><li>Filtering </li></ul><ul><li>Barriers and Passing Lanes </li></ul><ul><li>Any others? Examples </li></ul>
    42. 42. Downward Communication <ul><li>Talking to the Boss </li></ul><ul><li>Telephone Game – exercise </li></ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul><ul><li>Planning </li></ul><ul><li>Barriers and Passing Lanes </li></ul><ul><li>Any others? Examples </li></ul>
    43. 43. Lateral Communication <ul><li>Official meetings – agenda, minutes, timed items etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Hallway meetings – the meetings that take place after the official meetings </li></ul><ul><li>The Grapevine – informal communications processes that may exist </li></ul>
    44. 44. Up – Down – All Around Big Cheese Other Cheese
    45. 45. Six Tips for Effective Meetings <ul><li>Don't Meet. </li></ul><ul><li>Set Objectives for the Meeting. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide an Agenda Beforehand. </li></ul><ul><li>Assign Meeting Preparation. </li></ul><ul><li>Assign Action Items. </li></ul><ul><li>Examine Your Meeting Process. </li></ul>
    46. 46. Who says there is no “I” in team? <ul><li>“Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Marketing Executive, Citrix Corp. </li></ul>
    47. 47. Communications and Teams <ul><li>What makes a good team? </li></ul><ul><li>Teams communicate inside and outside </li></ul><ul><li>Team members belong </li></ul><ul><li>Team members trust each other </li></ul><ul><li>Team understands their role in the organization </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone have a role in the team </li></ul><ul><li>Team uses the skills of the members </li></ul><ul><li>Team wants to get better </li></ul>
    48. 48. Communications and Teams <ul><li>GROUPTHINK: You’re a candidate if: </li></ul><ul><li>Your team is Highly Cohesive. </li></ul><ul><li>Your team avoids Different Viewpoints. </li></ul><ul><li>Your team makes Easy Decisions. </li></ul><ul><li>Your team is Highly Stressed. </li></ul>
    49. 49. Practice makes perfect <ul><li>On writing – it’s a matter of exercise. If you work out with weight for 15 minutes a day over the course of ten years, you’re gonna get muscles. If you write for an hour and a half a day for ten years, you’re gonna turn into a good writer.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Stephen King, 1986 </li></ul>
    50. 50. In writing, small is better factors parameters buy procure use utilize rank prioritize prove substantiate help facilitate direct coordinate data database help assist
    51. 51. In writing, simple is better they used they managed to use your home your own home an example a specific example as in the form of yearly on an annual basis boring dull and boring only one and only he he is a man who gift free gift
    52. 52. In writing, inclusive is better run the booth man the booth work hours man-hours flight attendant stewardess salesperson salesman Ms. Mrs. or Miss staff manpower supervisor foreman firefighter fireman chairperson or chair chairman
    53. 53. Remember your audience!