Today there is a greater need than ever to set communication expectations at work that work. With team members on furlough, reduced staff, and people working from home, communication is not only critical to the success of your operation but also to the well-being and peace of mind of your staff.
It may be even more critical for those who continue to go to work, healthcare professionals, pharmacy staff, and grocery store personnel all need to have clearly communicated expectations, because it could mean life or death.
So, how do you set communication expectations that work? One of the problems with modern communication is there are so many medias available. Phone, text, email, and face-to-face are just a few of the options. No single communication network works universally. If you’ve ever missed an urgent email because you were off the grid you know the frustration. You may have thought, why didn’t they call or text me, but the question is, did you give them your communication expectations?
What do you Prefer?
Do you want to set communication expectations that work with your team? If so, it begins by understanding your communication expectations. The first thing you need to do is understand your needs and preferences. Rate and answer the following:
Rate the following as to your preference
|Never if I can help it
|Rarely, only mom
|Yea, it’s good
|Always of Course
Note what you like or dislike about each
I gave this survey to a sales team. We learned that the sales manager preferred email and used it as his primary communication to manage the team. At the same time, two of the younger sales people shared that they strongly disliked email, often deleted pages at a time without opening them, and preferred text messages. The sales manager manager considered texting unprofessional and inappropriate for the workplace place. As facilitator I didn’t take sides but stressed how important it was for the team to discuss and agree on how they would communicate going forward.
How do You Let Folks Know What You Prefer?
Set the expectations by telling people what you prefer, but that alone will not be enough. You have to teach people how to communicate with you. For example, if you’re busy every day from 8 until 9 a. m. then don’t answer emails (OK, you got me, don’t lose a customer over this, but you’d be surprised how many will understand — they face the same hurdles). Politely answer the emails in order at 9:01 explaining that their correspondence is important, but you were unavailable at that time. Don’t think you can do that? You already do it every day during meetings, lunch, and breaks.
When You Don’t Share Expectations, the Outcome May be Unexpected
I’ve shared before about a co-workers frustration with me when I didn’t answer his email. By the time he sent his third email it was shouted in all caps, “WHY HAVEN’T YOU ANSWERED ME!?” The answer is I’m more efficient when I limit distractions; therefore, I’ve turned off email notifications and only check it three times a day. The problem was I didn’t meet his expectations because he was unaware of mine. I didn’t share my communication expectations with him. I have since. Now, if he urgently needs to contact me he sends a text — my phone is always on.
What do You Expect?
By understanding and sharing your communication expectations you can reduce, not eliminate, the frustrations of communication breakdowns. “If others don’t know what is expected, they probably won’t meet those expectations. Sounds pretty silly doesn’t it? It happens, and it happens often. So, don’t assume – share.” — How to Improve Interdepartmental Communication. Have you shared your expectations? How did you accomplish this?
How to Set Communication Expectations that Work
A friend asked for my advice on a panel discussion she is chairing. The topic is communication. The discussion is part of a regional seminar for a large not for profit organization that has many layers of participation. I thought about it and offered her the following points to talk over with her panel before outlining the discussion.
6 Communication Points to Consider
- What’s the purpose? Is it to improve communication in general or in specific areas? Is it to introduce new topics, improve one segment of the communication chain, or clarify positions?
- Who’s involved? Does the topic fit the audience? Is it what they need to hear? What’s the best way to deliver the message? Should the audience be reduced to sub-groups or increased in size? Is the group being served?
- What are the expectations? What’s the takeaway, what do you want people to understand, learn, and embrace? How would you measure the success of the discussion?
- How will it be communicated? There are so many ways to share a message today it’s easy for it to get lost. The most common outcome of verbal communication is misunderstanding so should information be printed as well? Should it be available via email, text, social media, video, PowerPoint slides, or…?
- How will you check understanding? One lecture is seldom enough to influence the majority of listeners. How will you follow up your message, with whom, how often, and by what media?
- What will your CTA (Call to Action) be? A presentation without actions tied to it is little more than words. What actions will you ask your audience to take post discussion. Keep in mind that you —You Can’t Talk Shit Done: Adding Actions to Words
What’s Your Recipe?
I’m not certain all six points fit my friend’s needs or the organizations purposes. If you’re reading this, it may be the same for you and your organization. Pick and choose the questions that will best focus your team on improving communication. Build your own communication recipe. “We’ll have a dash of number three with sides of five and six please.” I know this, the answer to how to set communication expectations that work in your organization lies here in these six points. What works for you? What points have I missed? Are we communicating effectively?
One Last Thought
The survey makes for an interesting and enlightening group meeting. Try it with your team and let me know how it works.
How Can I Help You?
I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me.
So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.