Four Formal Methods of Communication

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It is four o’clock on Friday afternoon. Your traffic manager about to quit because copy for Saturday’s log still has not been turned in. The salesperson cannot be found. You are about to lose revenue on your best client because the copy is missing. Worse yet, a missing commercial is a chronic problem on Friday. You need an answer and you need it fast!

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Your program director is standing in your office complaining yet again that he cannot do his pet promotion because the sales department has not found a sponsor, and the promotion starts on Friday. Your sales manager tells you they just learned about the promotion this morning and cannot find a sponsor on such short notice.

You are looking at the pacing report and worried about the quarter. The sales manager tells you they cannot hit their sales budgets without more avails, but more than half of your sponsorship packages are still unsold.

You send out emails and reminders, but nothing seems to work.

You want to pull your hair out, but you cannot because your hair is on fire! Your organization is in disarray because of poor communication between coworkers and departments. You are in the communications business, but nobody is communicating!

Everything seems to be done in panic mode. Everything is Important and Urgent. It is impossible to do your best work when things are urgent. Finding yourself dealing with urgent matters implies a certain level of inadequate planning.

You need to find a way to bridge the communications gap and get ahead of the curve, so you have more time to plan your company’s future activities and improve your overall performance.

You need to implement the Four Formal Methods of Communication within your organization.

Being able to communicate effectively is perhaps the most important of all life skills. It enables us to pass information to other people and understand what is said to us.

Effective communication is not the same as broadcasting or sending out information. It is a two-way process. Effective communication requires skills in both sending and receiving data.

Communication is an active process. There is nothing passive about communication, whether you are listening or talking. Dr. Stephen Covey teaches us first to seek to understand, then seek to be understood.

Good communication skills can improve the way you live your professional, family, and personal life.

On the other hand, poor communication skills can harm your relationships and make your life significantly more problematic.

COVID-19, socially distancing, and work from home make communication skills the most valuable skills required in business today. We can no longer rely on many of the non-verbal cues or body language like we used to. To be an effective communicator, you must realize that things have changed, and new skills are required.

Email Overload

Over three billion emails go out daily. The average worker will receive over 130 business-related emails every day. Only about 30% of those emails will contain important information and relevant to the work at hand. Consequently, people develop a system of glancing at and deleting emails to keep their inbox organized. It is very easy for even the most conscientious workers to miss an important email.

The average employee generates 70 emails a day. Reading and sending 200 emails a day consumes 13 hours a week, eating up 28% of the workweek. That does not count the 40% of employees who send, receive, and check emails outside of working hours.

Getting back to work, effective, productive work after responding to an email takes slightly more than one minute.

Before you hit forward on the next email in your inbox, stop and think. Can this issue wait until I have a regularly scheduled meeting or a private one-on-one with the person involved in this email? If it can, you will avoid creating an email thread that could be confusing, inefficient, and bad for productivity. If the issue cannot wait, try to call that person, explain the case, and tell them an email is on the way. You may get the answer you are looking for without additional clarifying emails.

Try to teach your team about the pitfalls of rapid-fire emails. Help them understand that irrelevant and non-essential emails drag down productivity. Try to foster ideas from your team on better ways to use email.

This communications system is based on the premise you must always think first, communicate second. Instead of ready, fire, aim, you want to make a tactical decision to save your thought for the best opportunity for effective communication, primarily when you are face-to-face with your intended recipient.

If you are still low tech, you create a file folder for each of your direct reports. You keep these file folders close by. When you have something you want to communicate, you take a moment to write down the thought and put that note in the folder for the intended direct report instead of just firing off an email. When you have your private one-on-one with your direct report, you pull out the folder and discuss the notes you have saved for the meeting.

If you are more high-tech, you can organize your thoughts and ideas to communicate into Outlook folders or use Microsoft OneNote. When it is time for your face-to-face, you go to your storage system and review the recipient’s items. Gmail has similar capabilities for organizing your emails and tasks for later.

The system works best when every member of the team learns to think first, communicate second. You should set the pace through your actions. When someone fires off an email to you without judging, slow the pace down and put your response in line for your face-to-face time with the sender. If they send another email requesting an answer, simply reply that you will talk about it in your next one-on-one meeting.

The Four Formal Methods of Communication in a High-Performance Organization are 1) Paperwork and email, 2) Group Meetings, 3) Private One-On-One Meetings, and 4) The Special Meeting.

Your paperwork sends essential information to your coworkers and your customers. Other people respond to your paperwork by acting or providing you with new information. Consequently, you must try to ensure that your initial communication through paperwork is accurate and complete. Otherwise, you will not get the appropriate response. Sloppy paperwork can cost you money, time, and relationships.

Every organization has a paper workflow. Today, every aspect of your Radio station runs on a computer. Computers follow written instructions. Garbage in is garbage out. That garbage out is what your listeners hear over the air.

Your employees need to be trained and retrained on properly completing their paperwork. It is simply not an option. It is a job requirement. Improperly completed or just plain sloppy paperwork has a financial cost that cannot be tolerated.

Consequently, you must offer the employee support and education, but in the end, “I’m just not any good with computers” is no longer an acceptable response. You and the offending employee cannot afford the cost.

The Group Meeting

The most effective Group Meetings have an agenda. The agenda must be distributed to all attendees at least 24 hours in advance so that all participants can come prepared. Even if you distribute a copy of the group meeting agenda in an email, have a printed copy for each attendee on hand for use in the meeting.

The purpose of holding a Group Meeting usually fits into one of two categories, transactional information meetings, and training meetings. You should not mix training content with transactional information content in the same group meeting.

The primary purpose of the transactional information group meeting is to communicate important operational information to all participants. In other words, get and keep everyone on the same page. So, the agenda of the transactional information group meeting should remain relatively constant from week to week. Consult with your staff about your station’s specific agenda needs, but here is a sample template to get you started.

The Private One-On-One

The private one-on-one meeting is the one chance we have each week to reset from the hectic and focus on the strategic with our team members.

But I am going to introduce you to a new one-on-one meeting format that will challenge your paradigm of the traditional one-on-one meeting.

The fundamental goal of a productive one-on-one meeting is to communicate. Communication is a two-way activity where both parties exchange ideas and information. The first key to effective one-on-ones is to establish a level playing field, where the salesperson’s communication needs are respected.

Devote the first half of the meeting to the seller’s agenda and the second half of the meeting for the manager’s agenda. Salespeople and sales managers should both maintain a reminder file folder where they keep notes about things that are important to them to discuss in the private one-on-one.

Open the meeting by asking the salesperson to begin with their list of topics. Be patient, hear them out. Give them the help they need. Do not worry; they will not take up the whole hour. You will need to remind them to bring topics they need help with to the meeting.

Do not let the private one-on-one meeting run past the scheduled ending time. If you cannot cover everything in the time allotted, you need to schedule a special meeting at a later scheduled time to complete your discussions. Letting the meeting run long is poor planning, and it is not fair to the next salesperson in line for their meeting time.

The private one-on-one meeting is a practical way to track and document progress toward personal and professional goals. Everyone in the organization wants to know where they stand, where does the group stand? Following the critical metrics from week to week keeps the focus on what is essential for everyone involved. If progress is made, you can look back and celebrate the growth. If not, the private one-on-one meeting is the perfect private environment to discuss plans to get on track.

The private one-on-one meeting needs to be more than the dreaded weekly beat down. It is the best opportunity to make meaningful progress toward personal and business goals. Develop a healthy respect for the process, and you will start to see a dramatic improvement in performance.

The Special Meeting

Reserve the special meeting for the issues that come up that cannot fit into paperwork, private one-on-ones, and group meetings. The special meeting exists as a tool to keep the other three methods of communication on track and effective.

In our first example, one of your team members has an issue come up during the day, and he/she needs your help. You must stay focused on your agenda for the day and schedule time to help your team member according to your plan, not theirs.

You schedule a special meeting for the issue. Since your day is already blocked out for your activities, you will need to schedule the special meeting in one of your open slots, after 5 pm, over the lunch hour, or early the next day morning before the rest of the team arrives for work. The special meeting should have a fixed duration and start and end on time.

Use the special meeting if the private one-on-one meeting is going to run over the scheduled time. Private one-on-ones must run like clockwork so the next private one-on-one can start on time. You are responsible for keeping the schedule on track; otherwise, you affect other people and their schedules. You depreciate the value of the private one-on-one for your team members when the schedule is inconsistent. Remember, dedicate the first half of the private one-on-one to the team member’s agenda, not yours. You want them to plan for their meeting and bring their Important/Not Urgent issues to the meeting for your collective best efforts.

Special meetings are the place for disciplinary or corrective action issues. These should always be private with only the appropriate people present. As a leader, when it comes to serious issues like performance or behavior, you must have a cool head. You cannot become reactionary and lose your temper or show anger. By scheduling a private meeting for such issues, you have time to collect your thoughts, involve appropriate team members, and develop your plan. People will not always agree with your decisions. But you must always act fairly. Scheduling the special meeting gives you the time to make the right decision for the circumstances.

Gaining control over your time and your agenda is the essential task of an effective leader. You must be the person who decides how to spend your time. You cannot get it back once it is gone. You want to ensure you spend your time on your most valuable activities, the long-range strategic activities that move the organization forward. People are coming at you from all sides for a piece of your time. If you don’t guard your time, it will be easy for people to get you off your agenda with their priorities, and before you know it, other competing priorities will consume your day.

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If I can help you with time management or any other organizational needs you have, please let me know.

Spike SanteeFour Formal Methods of Communication

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