Three Simple Rules To Improve Team Communication

Have you ever walked into a room when a group of people are mid-conversation?

Most of the time, you’re stuck with sitting in silence twiddling your thumbs or killing the conversation with annoying questions.

‘Who’s that?’ ‘When?’ ‘Why?’

The problem is you don’t have context.

Communicating in business is no different.

Over the years, I’ve continually encountered this problem when communicating with my team or other business stakeholders.

Often, I’ve received an email that didn’t have enough context or too many open loops.

Throwing a bunch of thoughts into an email without providing context for the person on the receiving end, will more often than not, be a waste of time for you both.

Going back and forth via email to unpackage all the nuances of a conversation is a frustrating experience.

If the email is time dependant, you’ve already lost.

We’re just busy enough doing our jobs, without remembering what everyone else is working on and spending time trying to figure that out.

I’ve found a couple of useful tactics that help avoid this problem.

1. One Topic Conversations

Restrict your email to a single topic of conversation.

This keeps the conversation tight and moving in a singular direction. Everyone CC’d knows what the talk is about and can quickly understand why and when they should contribute.

If you’re addressing a customer service complaint, then stick to that one issue. Don’t branch off into other topics that can fracture the conversation in any direction.

For examples, I recently received an email a business partner proposing a new lease/larger premise for our business.

The email also covered current maintenance issues within the existing space, the business’s future direction, staff morale, and other topics.

Even though each of those items is worth discussing, the email was sent to four different people. You can imagine how many different directions that conversation quickly headed. I didn’t even bother responding as I didn’t know where to start.

Restrict your emails to a single subject; it works.

2. Relevant Subject Lines

An email subject line isn’t a ‘nice to have’ where you throw in a couple of keywords. It’s your chance to provide the recipient/s of your email as much context as possible.

Make it as relevant, make it concise, and everyone wins.

Someone reading your email’s subject line should understand what your email is about just, why it’s relevant to them and how timely the matter is.

For example, If your email is urgent and you need a quick response. Put that in the subject line. If it’s regarding an agenda item for your meeting tomorrow, put that in your subject line.

The more context someone can gather from your email’s subject line, the smoother your communications will become.

As a bonus, if your subject line is accurate when you need to find a particular email or email chain again, it’ll be easy.

3. Single Channel Conversations

Keep your communications about a particular subject in a single channel. Don’t let the conversation drift from email to slack to FB messenger or wherever else.

It’s like playing Chinese whispers—a fun game for kids, not a good way to communicate for work colleagues.

Most of us won’t remember the contents of a conversation when it jumps across channels. Information will need to be continuously repeated as the context of the message keeps getting l left behind.

Searching through multiple email chains for a single email is frustrating – you can 10x that frustration when you need to search through numerous communication channels.

You end up with a mess—and a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

KISS (keep it simple stupid) works, we like easy. The fewer KJ we have to use to communicate, the more effective it’ll become.

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