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Communication Breakdown

Three rules for leveraging internal communication to increase your team’s productivity By Will Mason

If cash flow is the lifeblood of a healthy organization, communication is the nervous system. Think of your brain and all of the nerves that connect it to the rest of your body. Your brain is constantly processing information coming from your sensory organs — eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin — and no part of your body can move without getting a signal from your brain. This flow of information is essential to your every move: thoughts, decisions, actions. When you get a headache, you are less productive, less able to focus and hold your attention to a task, and your judgement is less than optimal. Your organization is similar. If the nervous system is working at less than 100 percent, the business’ output will be less than its potential. Think of all the wasted time and missed opportunities due to communication breakdowns. Below is a story of an imaginary company, Gina’s Guitar Emporium. This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental … But it may sound eerily familiar. • Forty-five minutes of Monday-morning meetings are spent reviewing a metric dashboard. Gina, the CEO, loves to get “in the weeds” on numbers. However, the rest of the team is looking at their phones, wondering when this meeting will be over so they can get back to work. Eight people in the meeting times 45 minutes equals six hours wasted. • Paul takes a special order over the phone but forgets to copy billing on the email to the vendor, Sandman Amps. Two weeks later, when Ryan (the bookkeeper) is catching up on purchase orders, he sees a sale in the point-of-sale for an item that isn’t in inventory and has to reach out to Paul to ask the vendor for a copy of the invoice. Ryan’s time being interrupted to track down a missing invoice equals one hour wasted. • Ryan is upset with Paul because of the time that has been wasted, so he sends him a snarky email titled “3rd request for the invoice from Sandman Amps” that says “I’m still waiting on that invoice from Sandman. How hard is it to stop playing on your phone and call them?” The rest of the afternoon, Paul has multiple conversations with the three other sales team members, Liz, Hunter and Kyle about the email, even showing it to them on his phone. They are so busy talking, in fact, that the floor manager, Ron, reprimands them for ignoring a customer who is browsing the guitar section of the store. Paul and the sales team’s gossip time equals three hours wasted, plus a lost sale. As you can see, wasted time adds up quickly! These are all very typical situations and have cost this company 10 hours of lost time, plus a lost sale. The worst part is, all of this is 100-percent preventable! Let’s look at some simple concepts to help improve your company’s communication and reduce wasted time. 36

Rule

01

Rule

02 Rule

Don’t Break Up Over Text/Don’t Hold Meetings That Could Be Emails

One of the mistakes Gina and her team made is choosing the wrong platform of communication for a particular type of information. I’d like to share with you a concept that has drastically changed the way my company communicates. We learned this from Julie Funt at the Global Leadership Summit in 2018. Funt is an incredible public speaker, and she has a super practical tip for deciding what platform to use to share a particular type of information. She refers to two categories of information and platforms: 2D and 3D. 2D Information types: simple yes/no, data-driven communication 2D Communication platforms: text, email, messaging services (gchat, slack, groupme, etc.) 3D Information types: emotional, complex, nuanced 3D Communication platforms: meetings, in-person conversations, phone calls The problem we run into frequently is when we use the wrong platform for a communication type. We’ve all been in meetings (I know I’ve led meetings like this myself) where the conversation gets bogged down in details, and everyone is wondering, “Why couldn’t this just be an email?” or thinking, “I can read!” That’s what happened in Gina’s Monday-morning staff meeting. A 2D type of information found its way into a platform better suited for 3D communication. Even more dangerous is the opposite mismatch; a 3D communication being attempted over a 2D platform. Think about Ryan’s snarky email to Paul. It’s not that Ryan was wrong for feeling frustrated. It just would have saved a lot of time if he had walked into Paul’s office and had a direct conversation with him. Hiding behind a keyboard and sending “hot” emails rarely gets the results one is hoping for. Think of this as the “don’t break up over text” and the “don’t hold meetings that could be emails” rule: Anything that has the potential to involve feelings needs to be communicated in person or at least over the phone, and anything that can be sent in an email doesn’t need to be in a meeting agenda.

No Gossip Allowed

03

Need To Know Rule

All of that time spent on the sales floor talking about the situation could have been eliminated if Paul and Ryan had gotten together and hashed things out. This type of communication is vital to repairing working relationships and should be done frequently and soon after an incident. If Paul had remembered to send the invoice to the billing department, at least an hour of Ryan’s time could have been saved. A simple question to have your team ask themselves is “Does everyone who needs to know, know?” The opposite is also helpful if you have a team that copies everyone on every email. “Is there anyone who doesn’t need to know who I’m about to tell?”

Following these three simple (but not easy) rules will make a massive difference for your organization. Test these ideas out and let me know what you think on Twitter @goodwill314. NOVEMBER 2019

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