More Communication is Not Better

August 31st 2015

When CPAs and lawyers discuss their leadership and management challenges with me, I often hear some version of this: “We just need more communication around here.”

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Really? Team members often deal with hundreds of emails a day. Then there are the texts and phone calls and unscheduled visits from colleagues. And don’t forget meetings. All these methods can be productive, but when they’re poorly executed and combined with each other, they lead to burnout, misunderstandings, and disengagement.

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So, please, oh please, stop thinking that MORE communication is the answer to your firm’s problems. It isn’t. But more effective communication might help. You and your team will benefit from communication that is more:

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Corteous - Remove doubt and uncertainty. Rather than “I need this ASAP,” try “Please finish this project by 3:00 on Friday.”

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Civil - See example above. Remember what you mother taught you. You’ll get more of what you want when you use please and thank you and all the other niceties, no matter where you on on the org chart. Be clear, and don’t be a jerk.

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Authentic - Your voice, whether written or spoken, needs to sound like you. Too often, particularly when dealing with difficulty, we sound like somebody else. We hide behind policies and procedures because we don’t know how to say, “I’m confused by what just happened” or “You seem to be off your game and I want to help.” 

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Directed - If somebody messes up, talk to them about it individually. Avoid “everyone” emails and new HR policies simply because of one person’s actions.

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Strategic - Do you need to communicate a specific thing at a particular time? Are you saying it in the right way, to the right audience? Whether you’re writing or speaking, think carefully before words leave you and land on someone else. Those words have consequences.

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With many things in life, more is better: cupcakes, hikes, and love fit that bill for me. But I have yet to encounter a work situation where more (lousy) communication is the right answer.

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communication, professional development

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