We have so many ways to reach each other. I continue to be deluged by email and text is a constant, as well. I have friends and family who are best reached by Instagram, others who are faithful to Facebook. And, of course, there are those who set aside time to connect by phone or Skype. That’s a lot of choices, a lot of words going back and forth, but often we’re not communicating.
What’s absent from our communication? How can we improve?
The word communication comes to us from Latin and Old French and means “the act of imparting, discussing, debating, conferring”. Half of that definition implies a real-time exchange of information and ideas … a part we’re often missing. I gained clarity about this over the summer and realized … there’s a simple solution.
During the month of August, I took on a video creation project that involved many people. It was one of those situations where the ideal deadline had passed even before we got started. Yikes!
My job was to create eight videos. This was a substantial learning curve for me and I experienced many hours – and days – when I produced nothing of value. When I did complete a video, I sent it to Linda Daley who created the graphics. This was hours of work; a lot of graphics were needed, especially for the videos that ran over 15 minutes. And once she was finished, the video and graphics went to our editor. He dedicated 154 hours to produce all the final videos for the client.
The three of us automatically fell into an “in the loop” habit. Without ever discussing it, each of us let the others know, in very brief emails, what part of the project we were working on, when we’d finish, if we’d run into a snag or delay, what we needed from each other. Communication was smooth, easy, consistent and reliable.
While you might think the numerous messages would be annoying, the very opposite was true. I experienced less stress because I always knew the status of the project and what was expected of me. And I remained confident in our ability to complete the work for the client (even though our final delivery date was less than ideal).
I followed a similar pattern of “in the loop” communication with the client. While I did not send daily updates, I did make sure they were aware of our progress, knew when videos had reached the editing stage and when they were being uploaded to the chosen platform.
I especially let them know when we experienced delays and what to expect in terms of a new timeline. This is essential communication. Too often we hesitate to send these messages and embrace a level of denial instead. We hope we’ll catch up quickly and that our inability to keep our word will be silently accepted. When we do this, we create stress for both ourselves and our clients … and we damage our brand.
The client had a lot going on. Big learning curves, multiple deadlines, travel. As a result, they responded to updates only once. While understandable, this fueled my stress, worries and concerns about the project.
The ultimate value of communication exists when there is both information and response. Sending information doesn’t necessarily mean we’re communicating. A response confirms, enlightens and, as I learned with Linda and the editor, builds teamwork, confidence and trust. It makes us more effective and efficient.
As a result of this project, I developed a deep respect for team communication tools, such as Slack. But even without these in place, we can all adopt a brief, concise “in the loop” strategy of keeping our colleagues and clients informed.
What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comment section below.