Communication – it’s a two way street (even at work)

July 7, 2010
I have done a few postings on communication already.  But they have been on how a manager should communicate with their employees:
There is a reason I focused on the managers – one bad manager can ruin a high performance team in no time at all.

But I have run into situations where I was shocked at how little communication was going on among peers, inside teams, and up the chain.  I have tried to follow my own rules.  I have made sure:
  • I am trying to set a good example myself
  • I try to set expectations and make sure they're very clearly communicated
  • I am trying to make sure no one is in the wrong role or has been set up to fail
  • And I don't think anyone on the team truly is an a-hole
So, for the benefit of all employees out there, here are a few simple rules for you, too:
  • Treat others like you would like to be treated
  • It seems to be true, everything we need to know in life we learned in kindergarten – play well with others, share, use please and thank you, be on time, fess-up when you make a mistake, don't lie, etc.
  • Let me know as early as possible that there is a problem
  • Ignoring a problem or waiting to tell someone about it didn't work when you were 5, why do you think it is a good idea now?
  • Don't wait till you turn in the work to let me know you couldn't do part of the job (so you just ignored that part of the task)
  • It's even worse if you turn in the partly done work on the due date or late
  • And if you are going to go over budget (hours or dollars), bring it up as soon as you know it is going to happen. Don't wait till you have exceeded the budget to ask for more. 
  • If you have an idea that is better (simpler, faster, cheaper, etc.) bring it up! If it's not appropriate to bring it up in the meeting, then grab me later and tell me your idea
  • If you know something isn't going to work or will fail, let me know! Don't assume I know it didn't work the last time someone tried X
  • Don't ask someone else to do something you wouldn't do
  • If possible, come to me with a solution, not a problem (but don't use this as an excuse to not tell me about a problem)
  • If you are handing something off to the next person on the task don't assume they'll read the project notes and understand everything perfectly, take the time to walk them through the task and make sure they understand the due date and the scope of the task at hand 
  • Communicate with others like you would like to be communicated with
  • Don't say things in email to someone you wouldn't say to their face
  • The best rule to follow with email is to assume it will be read by everyone – don't write it if you don't want it published. How many times has a forward been sent to the wrong person or someone did a 'reply all' by accident? 
  • Don't hide the important information in an attachment, put it directly in the body of the email
  • And don't put the important information at the bottom of a 5 page declaration – you are lucky if most people read the 2 paragraph, bring it up early
  • Bullet points are awesome (as you can see from my over use of them)! But not all subjects should be addressed in bullet points, sometimes using big boy words and actual paragraphs is required!
  • MS Power Point can also be abused, don't fall into the trap of using Power Point to sketch out your thoughts, make sure you start with a fleshed out complete thought before you use the bullet list short hand for the thought or idea. It is hard to communicate what you haven't thought through…
  • Sometimes it is just a miscommunication.  If it seems wrong or odd don't just go with it, maybe one of you misunderstood the other. Make sure you understand what the other person is saying and that they understood you
  • An email at midnight letting me know about an 8 AM meeting isn't nearly as helpful as one sent a few days before or at least one sent before 5PM
  • Sometimes a phone call is 100 times better than an email, face to face can be 1,000 time better!
Ok I was torn about this one, because it seems harsh, but I have to say it:
  • It's not all about you – don't take it personally
  • That slightly harsh email sent out by the VP? It wasn't about anything you did. 
  • "Why did they ask me to do this? They know I don't like it!" – maybe they are in a rush to do 20 things also and you are their go to person

That seems like a huge list!  But what did I forget?  Anything I should add?

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