How does one carefully maintain the balance between effective communication and time management?

I recently received the below question:
How does one carefully maintain the balance between effective communication and time management? (should everything be done via email, text & Skype?)
The rule of thumb is that the answer to most questions starting with “should everything be” is  “NO”.
It’s the same with this question.

Effective communication IS time management.  It isn’t a trade-off, such as this question seems to imply.   Consider how much time you waste through misinterpretation, vague directions, mistakes and hurt feelings when you are not communicating clearly?

There’s much more to this than meets the eye, but here are five of six tips to effective communication AND time management:

1) Create a Communication Plan for your project or team.  In it, you will describe how you plan to communicate:  your status, how/when to conduct one-on-one meetings, the frequency, the method of distributing the agenda, where you will be keeping the minutes or notes, etc.  There is no right or wrong way to communicate with your team.  But you need to actually “communicate” how you plan to communicate and what they can expect from your and visa-versa.
2)  One of the better ways to effectively communication with others is to understand their preferred method of communicating.  Communication styles and learning styles can be directly associated, because learning is a form of understanding what the other person is trying to convey (communication).  And just like people have different learning styles, we have different communication styles.
There are also two pieces to communicating with someone
  • Getting their attention and interest on the goal/purpose of the discussion.  Once you have their interest, then you can….
  • Actually convey the data or information that you want to convey.
3)  There are several ways to capture someone’s attention.  Some are more comfortable with the phone.  Some are more comfortable via email or Skype.  So, understanding your stakeholders “attention” preferences is a good start.  Just because someone prefers a phone call, doesn’t necessarily mean he understands the conversation best on the phone.  It just means that the phone call is the best way to capture his attention.  From that phone call, you can setup a subsequent meeting that really does allow the person to digest and understand the full topic.
There may be several ways to capture their attention.  Some are:
a) phone
b) email, text
c) Chat, Skype
d) notes, cards,
e) face-to-face
Effective communication also considers the receiver’s learning methods:
a) are they visual
b)  are they auditory learners
c) read/write learners
d) kinesthetic learners or tactile learners  (hands-on)
A formal presentation for a larger audience should have aspects of all of the above for maximum audience absorption.  If you are playing to an audience of one — understanding how they best learn and playing to that strength is sufficient.

4)  The goal of good communication isn’t “tell them what you want to tell them”.   It is actually successfully accomplishing the goal or reason for telling them something.   For example,  if the goal is just to convey certain information or instructions, then after you Introduce the topic, then tell them what you want to tell them, you need to validate that they got the message.  Including Active Listening skills is a critical piece to communication.  Asking them to paraphrase what you said in their own words — or having them paraphase what it means to them in their role — helps assure that they understood what you were trying to convey.  If they paraphrase incorrectly, then you can have an interactive and iterative dialogue to better clarify.
5) If this is a two-way conversation (not just you communicating status or direction), it’s a good idea to have them discuss their issues first.  This way, you can listen for any common goals, common threads, their terminology, etc.  Then you use active listening skills to paraphrase what you think you have heard from them.   Once they feel that you understood what they are saying — then they will be in a more receptive mindset to listen to what you have to say.
As you speak, continue to refer back to the common threads and common goals.  Use the same language, terms and verbage that they used. This will reduce confusion and aide agreement.

6) In this global and time-flex market, you need to understand your team’s time zones and considerations.  If people are family oriented and are working from home, 3:00pm when the children are being picked up from school isn’t the greatest time to call them.   If it’s midnight in their time zone, it’s probably not the best time to setup a staff meeting.  Manager’s shouldn’t make meeting that are only convenient to the manager’s schedule or time zones (if they have global and remote employees).  Having a well laid-out Communication plan for your team is essential.

There’s lots to this issue.  Hope this gets you started.   I have several articles on communication, interrupting, meeting management, etc.  Let me know if you would like copies.


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