Here are my thoughts on some keys to communication. I’m a young guy and don’t have too much experience so I’m sure that my views on these things will change and grow as I gain more, but these are my current observations.
Meetings – Some people view meetings as a way to waste some time and view it only as an expense. After all, when a whole department or division gets together for a meeting they are not out getting work done but they’re still getting paid! But really unless you’re going wild with the meetings and 50% of your day is filled with them, they can be quite useful. It all comes back to teamwork, you can be a group of independent people all working separately or you can be a team of people working together. Let’s take a weekly 30-60 minute team meeting as our example and say we have 5 people on our team. That really adds up, 150 – 300 minutes worth of time that could be spend at a desk or in the field! However, in the meeting when you start discussing what you’re working on and how you’re planning to accomplish these things your team members around you are able to offer advice, previous successes or failures, or perhaps a solution that is already in place. It opens up the channels of communication that might not happen naturally and can really enhance teamwork. Imagine if two employees both have a need for a similar solution to a problem, instead of each coming up with a solution they are able to work together and generate a common solution that works for both. Scenarios like these will not waste time, but rather save time! It will also help to keep each employee feeling involved in the team and increasing job satisfaction and motivation. They’re no longer just working on the things handed down to them, but rather working on a bigger picture as part of a team.
Responding – This aspect is key in all parts of life, not just work. When someone gives you information or asks you to do something, respond! Let them know that you have received their message and will be looking into it, or that you have completed the task. I feel that email makes people especially bad at this, but only because it enhances some people’s desire to avoid confrontation or interaction. It’s as simple as saying “Thanks!” or “I’m on it!”, just a short response to let them know that you received their message and it did not disappear somewhere in the interwebs.
Listening – This is definitely the hardest part of communication! It’s not speaking articulately, being persuasive, or giving the best details possible, those things are sometimes challenges but the hardest part is listening. It’s not just hearing what they said, but rather hearing and understanding what they said. Listening is interactive! After you are done listening, questions should be asked to clear up anything that you need cleared up (what do you mean by that?) or to make sure what they are asking for is really what they want (What is the root of the problem?). In today’s world of email, this can mean waiting to catch up on your inbox before responding to anything. There have been instances where I’ll start reading and hit an email which merits a prompt response, and then after I reply to the email and continue reading I find that someone else has already taken care of it and my email was unhelpful and a waste of my time.