There is nothing more detrimental to an organization than fragmented communication. How can anyone expect to move forward with clarity when you send a cloudy email. Then follow up with a face-to-face exchange where you leave the person even more in the dark than the cloudy message worse yet, you are sharing the urgency, intention or expected desired outcomes. Bottom line you have successfully conveyed a different message entirely. Aligning your messaging words across audio, written, and video channels is master key component to effective leadership (formal or informal).
Audio–He/She/They Said What?
One day Renée, a colleague of mine, who happens to also be a communications expert, started talking about aligned communication and what that looks like. I went off into a whole bit about seamless communication and the need to be intentional about it…she let me go on with my line of thinking for about 3 minutes before asking me if I ever heard of “The Plan”. I said the plan. She responded with “THE PLAN”. By now it was obvious I had not heard of it before. She said “Okay let me share it with you now”:
In the beginning was the Plan.
And then came the Assumptions.
And the Assumptions were without form.
And the Plan was without substance.
And darkness was upon the face of the Workers.
And the Workers spoke among themselves, saying, “This is a crock of shit, and it stinks.”
And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said, “It is a pail of dung, and we can’t live with the smell.”
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying, “It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it.”
And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying, “It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength.”
And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying to one another, “It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong.”
And the Directors went to the Vice Presidents, saying unto them, “It promotes growth, and it is very powerful..”
And the Vice Presidents went to the President, saying unto him, “This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of the company with very powerful effects.”
And the President looked upon the Plan and saw that it was good. And the Plan became Policy.
And that, my friends, is how $&*! happens.
It’s safe to say, how the plan was interpreted throughout the company is funny and sadly true for most organizations. When interpretations are that varied in real life you can count on a few things…your plan will get lost in translation, there is confusion about the plan’s origin or desired outcome, you will encounter conflict, and you can count on a delay.
Written–Putting Pen to Paper
By putting thoughts down on paper, you essentially create a source of reference that can be compared or contrasted to what you have conveyed in conversations. Ensuring your you have effective written communication that is aligned with your verbal (communication) comes down to three words – clear, concise, and direct. You want to be clear about your message and the subsequent meaning you wish to convey.
By now we all know most people have VERY SHORT attention spans, especially when it involves digital communication. Which makes it critical to focus your messaging, say the message and then restate it once more. Begin with a clear, stripped-down message. Use as few layman’s terms as possible to communicate goals, deadlines, and priority. This is what my friend called the “Twitter version”, Imagine that this is the only thing the recipient will read before someone walks into their office, taking their attention away from the message. Got to’ love those digital communications pros. Believe me Renee is one of those pros!
Once you’ve shared the core message verbally, restate it with added detail.
This is what I mean:
Subject: Deliver Q3 accounts Report by February 15. (This is the Twitter version intro.)
Body: Looking for data from June 15 through September 15. We need to break out former client, Cosign’s, payables. Key milestones are as follows:
• February 4—team collaboration meeting
• February 11—draft presentation
• February 14—final presentation
Presentation is key feeder for senior leadership decision on five-year strategy plan. If you have any questions, please find me.
Happy New Year!
Bob R. Oss
Video–Show Them You Mean It
You’ve sent a well-crafted written communication, now it’s time to make sure you maintain the message through your actions. Leadership means being aware of the big picture, providing resources, delegating appropriately, and ensuring milestones are met. None of that matters of you do not demonstrate clear concise communication through action. Renee also introduced me to the idea of omnichannel communication. It is used in all mediums of media, including digital and social media. Omnichannel communication builds credibility.
She gave me the following scenario: you’re in the market for a new car. You see an ad on TV where the car shows a feature you’re interested in. When you go online to learn more about that feature, you don’t see anything about it. This creates a credibility issue. Causing you to question the sources of information, “Which is right? The TV ad or the online information?”. So, you then decide to call the dealership to get the right information. If you see the same features online that you did on television, you have confidence in the messaging and the campaign plan. Consistency between written and verbal communication of key points gives organizations a solid foundation for success. This is especially important when teams have multiple channels for communication.
Aligned, consistent communication in all forms of transmission will prevent 💩 from happening and help everything go according to The Plan.
• Clear communications prevent confusion about expectations, purpose, and outcomes
• Omnichannel communication creates a consistency between written and verbal communication
• Credibility and confidence in leadership are created through aligned communication in audio, written, and video channels