Earlier this week I was sharing my thoughts on the importance of good quality communication at the root of successful teams. In fact, at the root of all relationships and collaboration. Communication is clearly a multi-faceted thing, experienced on a host of levels but in basic terms we mean:
“the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium”
I want to share with you one tool that Eve and I have used at Happen to support our communication. We sat down last month and spelt out our shared communications protocol; a very practical task focused on the platforms we use to communicate and what we use them for. This protocol was only about how we, as two people, send to and share information with each other but we realised we do that through at least 8 channels.
It may well appear to you simple and obvious. In which case I congratulate you on the rare knowledge of how you communicate at your best and ask is that understood by everyone you work with? That’s rare in a world with an ever-burgeoning number of new channels and platforms to choose from, introducing us to functions we didn’t even know we needed.
Eve and I have been communicating for a long time: we have known each other since we were 16; have lived and travelled together; and worked in some sense with each other over a period of years. Yet in that half an hour conversation we uncovered at least half a dozen assumptions one of us was making that we had never spoken out loud. Be it my obsession with archiving and version control, Eve’s issue with getting slack notifications to work consistently or our VERY different approaches to mailbox management all of these apparently small things have the ability to create moments of stress, misunderstanding and frustration if we don’t talk about them. What would be the point of me conversing with myself in Slack about a great new opportunity if Eve thinks that should one arise I would call her up about it?
The picture of our protocol largely only represents the actual platforms and their purpose. But implied is that we understand the detail of how we like to give and receive information at our best, i.e. what our preferences are for specific types of conversation. These preferences can be set out in a personal communication profile or chart and can be a useful first step. Hence, we both prefer texting for quick asks but longer questions or chats require a phone call. Because we know that, we both feel comfortable that the other may not answer immediately because they may be too busy for a longer conversation but they will call us back when they are free – we are not being ignored.
In the last month, bar a few hiccups, communication and the flow of information has been smooth and we know where things are. It’s important that we keep this under review so we know it’s still working. And because things are transparent and talked about I will feel more resilient and comfortable when Eve (it will inevitably be Eve) suggests introducing a new platform for exchange, which may or may not make one of the others obsolete. Hopefully it will fill that gap we identified!
Quick guide to establishing a communication protocol:
We did this in the space of a longish coffee break (30 mins), avoiding miscommunication incidents could make that one of your best value coffee breaks yet:
List all the platforms you use or are thinking about using on one side of a piece of paper, e.g. email, enterprise social network, phone…
List the types of exchanges you have on the other side of the paper, e.g. developing new ideas, requesting review of a document, passing on customer information, letting someone know you will be late….
Working together, match the types of exchange to the platforms exploring “when ‘x exchange’ is at its best, it’s like what?”
Make time to explore which platforms individuals are comfortable with and which some may find more difficult? Could a preference for using a different channel be incorporated and/or could one team member support another to adopt new channels or ways of working them?