The post Say It Three Times if You Want Them to Remember has been very popular for the last several months. Communication is essential for leaders. If you search for COMMUNICATION on my page, you will find a number of posts on the topic. As a leader, communication is the base of the cornerstone of trust. You must consistently communicate well, verify people understood what you intend, be honest with people, and communicating often. This series covers how to communicate better in writing, such as letters and e-mail; verbally in-person, one-on-one, in small groups, and large; through text messaging and social media; and by phone. The thesis of Say it Three Times is simply to use three forms of communication to repeat important messages to those you lead if you want them to remember it. Learning to effectively use the five methods of communication listed above helps you influence others better so your organization, those you lead, and you succeed.
Writing ensures what you tell others is memorialized. Often leaders think a document is necessary to demonstrate they told someone to do something with the idea they will fail to comply. The document provides proof of their follower’s insubordination. There are merits for this, but if you are only providing written direction for the purpose of playing ‘Gottcha’, then you really need to work on all your leadership skills.
Written direction provides a reference for others to use as they complete the work. Without a document, those people must come back to you for instruction when ever they forget what you told them. Your document should serve as a guideline of the expectations and specifications of the work. Avoid passive voice as; it confuses readers. Active voice writing tells the reader who does what. Provide the reason for the task or a particular step to improve understanding. Remember, follow up to ensure the intended audience understands what you wrote. It is not enough to write it down, send it along, and assume the receiver read it, understood it, or understands why it is important. Written communication includes letters, memorandums, orders, emails, and instructions.
The bulk of leader communication is verbal. Most of us have been talking for longer than we can remember, yet not everyone we talk to uses the same language, even when it is all English. The listener may not understand unusual terms or jargon. A simple example is ordering lunch across the United States. In some part of the country, you order a grinder and a Coke. In other places, the same items are called subs and soda. Ensure people understand the terms you use in your verbal communication.
Communicating verbally to one person is different from communicating in small groups and large. In one-on-one conversations, you judge from how the other person reacts whether they understand what you said. Such judgments are harder in small groups. Large groups are extremely difficult. Leaders speak to individuals and groups regularly, so it is important to develop your skills in each area.
In the early days of social media, much of the communication was short text messages. With the addition of pictures and video, social media has changed the way we communicate with others electronically. Text messaging, regardless of the platform, is written communication. A big difference with text messages is its informal nature. Shortcuts are acceptable, including use of emojis. Use an emoji in your next job application cover letter and see if you ever receive a request for an interview. Yet in text messages and on social media, both text based and graphical based characters are acceptable and expected. Text messaging is much more like verbal conversation than formal written communication. Use caution communicating in text and on social media.
There was a time when phones tied you to your desk due to the cord. Now things are different. Even thought most smartphones provide an opportunity with apps to communicate by video, some people still prefer only voice. In a video chat, your observations of the other’s reactions allows you to judge understanding. Using the traditional voice application removes that feedback. While not as difficult as one-way written communication, voice only communication reduces the feedback to people on both end of the conversation.
You will find on most smartphones an app that allows you to communicate verbally with others in real time. This might be a messaging app or, wait for it … a phone app. It may allow a video connection of simply voice.
In the next few months, there is lots of ground to cover regarding improving communication skills as a leader. Learning to communicate better helps you become a better leader. Understanding the strengths and drawbacks of each medium helps you better apply practices to improve communication outcomes. The more methods you use to communication with others, the more likely you are to successfully transmit your idea, desire, or instructions to other people. Take time to send the message clearly with one form of communication. Use another to verify the message was received. Follow up a few days later with a third method to answer any questions the other person generated. Using three methods of communication improves understanding by the other and provides increased opportunities to engage with questions. Use the three pitch rule to improve your communication with others.