Technology affords us so many ways to communicate with each other. We can phone someone directly or conference call, video or web conference if we need to speak to a group. We can email, voice mail, text message or correspond using a blog or wiki. This stuff is really cool, but it can also be really confusing and the choices we make can directly affect the quality and effectiveness of our communications.
Often, we choose a mode of communication that is the most comfortable for us, but not necessarily best in order to reach our audience. As organization leaders it is important that we honestly consider the way we communicate now, and do what we can to improve our skills. This includes being open to change as our technology-related reality changes around us.
Leaders who lack the ability to communicate effectively can make it painful for their employees, and may even be responsible for the exodus of their most talented people.
Some principles of communication planning for an organization can be helpful when applied to our everyday exchanges:
For example, numerous studies have shown that if the message you need to communicate is one affecting the overall business, people, in general will prefer to get that message from a top executive. If the message is one that affects them more directly, generally, people prefer to have their immediate supervisor deliver that message. Beyond understanding who should communicate the message (once you know your audience), you need to understand what mode of communication those people prefer.
Here’s an example. The online publication, Switched recently featured a report regarding a University that surveyed 300 of their students and found that text messaging was their favorite form of communication, with 94-percent of the students surveyed reporting they send and receive text messages. The study found that 99.7-percent of students have a "mobile communications device" and that 59-percent of students prefer texts, 17-percent favor phone calls, 9-percent tend to send instant messages, and 7-percent prefer to send e-mails.
For those of you who have a child between the ages of 12 and 25, this is not “new” news. You already know that if you expect to communicate on a regular basis with your kids, you’ve had to get your texting chops together.
If you’re a middle manager looking to more effectively communicate to top management, you should know that about 70-percent prefer to do so through email (up from about 34-percent ten years ago). Face to face communication is still the second most popular way to do business, with paper memos and voice mail at about 3-percent and 1-percent respectively.
This concept of adjusting communication based on audience is often lost on organization leaders. Many times, leaders fall back on the way they are comfortable communicating, expecting the organization and/or audience to adapt to them. If we expect our communication to be heard and better absorbed, we need to consider how our audience prefers to be communicated with. Your newer employees and new hires communicate differently than you do. Accept it and use it to your best advantage.
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