The Communication Audit
Communication channels often develop without strategic considerations. New technologies give us new ways to communicate, but also new ways to misunderstand each other, to crosstalk, and to overwhelm each other with messages.
Communications channels typically come in three categories:
- Audio Only.
Each channel’s tools may be:
The distinctions are elementary, but the implications of each require thought at the organizational level. The consequences of misused channels can be frustrating, disruptive, and expensive.
Using an asynchronous channel to give salespeople timely information about a client can mean a lost sale. Consistently using a text-based channel to direct an underperforming individual or team can result in low morale, poor retention, or millions of dollars in misaligned strategies.
The Communication Audit
We encourage every team to audit their communications channels. How are they using them? What are their policies and protocols for email, messaging, Slack, or for picking up an old-fashioned phone?
Not every team can control every aspect of its communication, but taking control of its communications in any way can save its members frustrations, time, and money. From here you can download your Communication Audit Worksheet.
When filling it out, alone or with your team, consider the following:
Email informs, confirms, and records. It makes a record. It is asynchronous.
Instant messaging provides an immediate response. It works well for informal conversations, or near-realtime problem-solving. It exists between synchronous and asynchronous.
Text messaging works best for timely messages. It can work to let someone know you’re running five minutes late, and also for letting someone know a problem needs immediate attention.
Text-based communication is great for providing raw information, and for creating a lasting reference. With it, you can communicate to many people, as well as you can with video, and with greater reference value.
Yet text-based communication leaves out body language and vocal inflection. It’s too easy to interpret text-based communications out of context, or to misread their intention.
For all text-based tools, consider these guidelines:
- Think before you send.
- Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want forwarded.
- Don’t use written messaging for corrective feedback.
- Text works well for giving praise.
- Think before hitting “reply all.”
Audio alone remains one of the best, most timely, and most efficient ways to engage in one-on-one communication. Depending upon the recipient, audio can be the best choice for coaching, relationship building, generating rapport, or keeping confidentiality.
When information must be timely, pick up the phone. Keep to audio in situations requiring dynamic and timely connection. Picking up the phone is still the best solution in numerous situations, when email or messaging can be inappropriate, slow, or damaging.
With some skill, video conferencing can (almost) replicate in-person meetings. Leaders with strong listening skills and emotional intelligence can use it to build rapport and trust. The best conferencing tools can replace whiteboards, provide for chats, create breakout rooms, and generate polls.
Asynchronous video allows for a wider range of listening and learning styles. Leaders can use it to teach or to convey messages which unify entire organizations. Done well, video captures context, emotion, and meaning far better than text. It provides a convenient way for many to learn, and it allows for widespread teams to stay unified.
In various formats, video can be effective for one-on-ones, small groups, and even massive audiences.