Communications are important in every aspect of your life. In a relationship? Yes. Raising children? Yep. Work. Oh yeah!
None of your associations, personal or professional, are immune to communications. It’s how we express ourselves, our wants and desires. Words are a somewhat blunt instrument to do so, but they’re the most effective tool we’ve got.
So, how do we use them better? If you can increase how well you articulate your ideas and directions, think about how that will impact the progress and potential success of your project? It’s the oil that’ll get those gears spinning.
What are effective communication strategies we can use at work to increase productivity? Well, glad you asked! Here are a dozen ideas that can jumpstart your communications and in so doing make you a more productive and effective project leader.
1. Have More Open Meetings
What? Have we lost you before we even got started? Meetings! Ugh, the bane of work. You’ve obviously sat through many mind-numbing ones and maybe even lead a few. Be honest. It’s okay. Meetings get a bad rap. They’re just a tool, and a tool can be handled effectively or dangerously.
A good meeting has an agenda and only involves those who need to know what is being discussed. But that’s not the type of meeting we’re calling for here. This is a meeting where everyone gets a chance to speak their minds and listen to what others have to say, without comment. This is a great way to gauge the temperature of your team, have them hear what you’re saying and actively listen to what they say.
Related: Communication Management Techniques Every PM Should Know
2. Emails Have a Use, Too
Really. They do. Hear us out. Like meetings, emails, once the vanguard of the electronic revolution, now seem like an old man shouting on a soapbox, ignored in the park. It’s true, people take advantage of emails and use them when other channels would prove a better means of communication.
However, when you want to pass on some official news, such as a meeting time and place or policy issue, there are few better vehicles to deliver it than email. You can target just the people you want, share the pertinent information and, if it is a meeting, they can simply click and add the schedule to their calendar. That’s effective communication.
3. Sometimes You Must Talk One-on-One
Communication strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all. Your communication takes leadership, and to be effective, your communications should be adaptive. There comes a time when you might have to disseminate sensitive information to one person or perhaps you need to speak about a private matter that is of no concern to others on your team or in the office.
That’s when the classic one-on-one communication comes in. It’s also a great way to communicate because you can look someone in the eye, read their body language and respond to cues that aren’t communicated verbally, which is important if you’re discussing something that might be uncomfortable.
4. Training as a Communication Tool
You might not think of training as the right vehicle to share information, but what else is it? Teaching someone something is communicating ideas and making sure they get them. In fact, how more effective can you get?
Sometimes, consider disseminating key communications as a “training” event, rather than an info meeting. People put on different hats, so to speak when they’re in learning mode. They’re more likely to retain the info, too. While it doesn’t work for everything you need to convey, it’s a great tool for certain things, especially technical or procedural matters.
5. Present Information Visually
Not everyone learns the same way. Some are good readers, others need to use their hands and do something to learn, and then there are those who are more visually oriented. Presentations can help some people better wrap their heads around what it is you’re trying to say. The use of colorful graphs and charts distill often complicated ideas into easy-to-understand images.
Related: Free Project Dashboard Template
6. Don’t Neglect Your Personal Presentation
You’ve heard the term: it’s the singer, not the song? Well, for you it’s both. You must articulate your ideas clearly, but as the one communicating, you must display confidence. You shouldn’t be standoffish, but your place is one of authority and demands a level of seriousness so that what you said will be understood as important.
This doesn’t mean putting on airs. In fact, the best method to get your ideas across once people take you seriously is to speak simply and honestly. Avoid jargon and dress up your language with a bunch of superlatives. They’re not needed and will only get in the way of the message you want to deliver. Everything from the words you choose to the body language you use is going to have an impact.
7. Don’t Be Repetitive
Don’t repeat yourself, don’t repeat yourself, don’t repeat yourself! When did you stop reading that previous sentence? Probably somewhere in the middle. You got it, and the more you get it, the less you’re likely to listen.
While some repetition can help embed the idea into a person’s head, a little goes a long way. After a while, it sounds less like your communicating with them as much as condescendingly lecturing. It shows a lack of confidence in your team and will result in low morale and attrition.
8. Have a Sense of Humor
All these serious communications between teams and managers can be a downer if it’s not tempered with a humorous perspective. A well-placed joke can lighten the mood. Once you have the crowd laughing, then they’re in your pocket. They’ll follow you anywhere. It relaxes the situation without undermining the importance of what you’re trying to pass on. Lightening the mood is a crucial skill when you’re in a tense or stressful environment, but don’t overdo it!
9. Ask for Feedback
Communication is a two-way street. You don’t merely give orders and expected them to be followed. That’s not communication, it’s a command. Sometimes a command might be in order, but not when you’re working with a skilled group who you want to do their job autonomously. For them, you want to communicate, and that means listening to what they have to say.
Related: Why Isn’t My Team Listening to Me, and How Do I Fix It?
Feedback is great for any number of reasons. It helps to clarify what you’re saying. Sometimes you think you’re being clear, but you might know the subject well and skip over things that are critical to another’s understanding. Feedback will fill in those gaps. There’s also the fact that you’ve assembled a skilled team and they might have a perspective or suggestion which is going to improve your idea. Feedback is a win-win.
10. Keep a Schedule
A great way to have a receptive audience is to make them aware of when you’re going to communicate with them. Whether that’s meetings, emails or phone calls, if you respect others’ time and schedule these anchor communication events with specific dates and times, then your audience is going to take time to free up their schedule and give you their undivided time.
11. Know Your Coworkers
This might seem obvious, but the better you know the people you work with, the better your communications with them will be. It’s not a superficial understanding. That you’ll get just from being in the same space with someone day in and day out. What you want to do is really get to know someone, what they like, what motivates them, who they are. Then, when you must communicate with them, it’ll be like talking to a friend, not a stranger, and your message will be that much better heard.
12. Appreciate Your Audience
You’re not a cruel taskmaster. You have a heart. Sure, you might get swept up in the current of the work, but never ignore the people that are driving the progress of the project forward. You need to do more than just acknowledge them; show that you appreciate your employees and their involvement. From a simple thank you to something more, like a party or a gift, your gesture will be rewarded with a more attentive audience when you need to communicate with them.
Another effective way to communicate is by having a tool that facilitates the process. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that gives you a real-time platform on which to communicate with people en masse or one-on-one. See how it can help make your projects more productive and efficient by taking this free 30-day trial.