10 Checkpoints For Effective Organizational Communication
“Communication is everything.” This is a common phrase in nearly all aspects of life involving two or more people — and it is true. Effective communication is a common theme behind many successes, while ineffective communication is a common theme behind many failures. But what is communication?
In short, communication is simply the sharing and transferring of information and meaning. In its most basic flow, it follows this sequence: Sender encodes a message and delivers it, then receiver decodes it and responds, becoming the new sender. Yet, if it’s so simple, why is ineffective communication so common within many organizations?
Beyond disruptions from various external and uncontrollable variables, ineffective communication occurs so frequently because we seldom consider key factors that contribute to effective communication. As senders, there are various factors to consider for greater levels of effective organizational communication. Below are 10 checkpoints to consider before delivering a message (written or spoken), based on far-too-common communication discrepancies.
- Check for appropriateness — Do I know my audience’s setting?
When addressing an audience, we must consider who we’re communicating with, as well as why and where — including the full setting and surrounding context (state of the business, current state of mind, etc.). It’s important we tailor our message, and its delivery, to appropriately serve the audiences’ reality, needs and interests.
- Check for relevance — Does my audience know their connection to my message?
When addressing multiple individuals at the same time, we risk individuals potentially assuming the message is for others, not them — and vice versa. It’s important we address our targeted audiences, informing them of their relevance (connection) to our message. If group A is receiving the message in order to respond, whereas group B is receiving the same message for alignment (an “FYI”), it’s important both groups are addressed and understand their involvement. Some call this explaining the “why” behind the “what.”
- Check for structure — Am I starting and closing my message well?
The most critical components of a message are the beginning (introduction) and end (conclusion). An effective introduction allows recipients to properly prepare to receive the information that will follow, while an effective conclusion allows recipients to interpret the message as intended, tying up loose ends. As some say, “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”
- Check for clarity — Does my message have any margin for misinterpretation?
The greater the ambiguity of our message, the greater the margin of misinterpretation and potential consequences. The intent behind effective communication is to minimize the margin of misinterpretation. For this reason, we must consider the receiver’s reality and think, “If I received this message, would I have any clarifying questions?” In short, give them the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why” and “how” right off the bat.
- Check for protection — Am I blocking out noise?
There are countless threats to communication that are considered “noise.” From irrelevant details (passive distractions) to common hecklers (active disruptions), it’s important we remove potential barriers in order to protect our message from noise.
- Check for timing — Is this the most effective time to send my message?
Everyone’s capacity to adequately receive a message varies throughout the day or week, as windows of receptiveness fluctuate based on the flow of business, routines, etc. It’s important we align the criticality of our message with the likelihood of receptiveness. If our message is of utmost importance, Monday mid-day would be an appropriate time to send it, as most folks are in the zone, whereas if our message is less important, Thursday afternoon could be more suitable.
- Check for implication — What does the timing of my message imply?
Timing and frequency don’t just impact an audience’s capacity to receive a message — they also carry an implication. For example, while one may think sending an email at 7:00 p.m. on a Sunday implies a “no days off” dedication to work, it may very well imply a disregard for personal time. It’s important we’re not tone-deaf.
- Check for simplicity — Is my message simple, comprehensive and lean?
Every word occupies precious real estate in an audience’s bandwidth of attention. Each point made, and each word used, can either strengthen a message or distract from it. It’s important that every piece of our message has an essential role in conveying its point with simplicity for focus. As they say, less is more. Rephraser - https://rephraser.ai/ - is no doubt your best online tool to eradicate wordiness - and it’s FREE!
- Check for respectability — Is my message direct and respectable?
Far too many leaders have the tendency to cheapen their message with soft and ambiguous language, whether intentional or not. For example, one may say something like “I just think we may want to consider exploring some potential thoughts you might have about billing” instead of “I’d like 20 minutes of your time to discuss your recommendations for increased efficiency on our billing audit process.” While a message must be tailored to each audience, it’s important we do not dilute its respectability by using language that inherently diminishes it.
- Check for intentionality — Is the delivery of my message intentional?
While delivering a message, it’s important that our intent remain consistent from start to finish. When there are multiple individuals involved in communication, it’s easy for any message to fall into an unintended direction. For example, one may initiate a directive message (in a structured format for providing outputs) to then fall into an exploratory discussion (in an organic format for soliciting inputs) while delivering it, only to lose track and confuse the audience. It’s important we stay on point — or at lease understand our reasons for drifting off point when necessary.
While these 10 checkpoints focus more on our roles as diligent senders, considering them as conscious receivers will also contribute to greater levels of effective organizational communication — especially if practiced so regularly that they become second nature, only to model effective communication for others to reciprocate.
Adapted from an article written by Corey Castillo, Founder and Principal Coach at Truth & Spears. First published on https://www.forbes.com/ August 24, 2020