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What do you think about when you hear the word communication?

Talking? Writing? Telephone?  Email? Texting? Radio or TV?

What most people think of as communication, I would consider modes of communication – in other words the method of delivering the message.

And with the internet and technology the different methods of delivery our message has expanded – consider Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs.

It’s great to have so many options to get your message out – however most of the  time I see the essential ingredient missing.

What I often see are people focusing on the words they are using – what they are saying out to their audience.

The focus in on what they want to express – not whether or not their audience can receive, understand and use the information they are providing.

The essential ingredient in effective communication is paying attention to what your audience needs to be able to hear, understand and use what you want to communicate.

Email for example completely changed how you need to structure your message so that it can be read and used.

Written communication used to be structured with an opening paragraph where you stated what you were going to discuss, then you stated your point and argument, and you finished with a conclusion restating your point. In emails that is too much information and the recipient almost never scrolls down – so what they see when they open the email is all that is communicated.

If the email isn’t bottom line you probably won’t accomplish what you set out to communicate. The most important part of email communication is the subject line.  

Whatever the main point of your email is, it must be communicated in your subject line if you want the recipient to receive, understand and use the information.

Blackberries and smart phones bottom lined email communication even more – to be effective you have to communicate your point in a couple of sentences.

Another issue is trying to communicate too many points, options or information at one time.

A highly recommended book is “Made to Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath. One of their main arguments is if you give people too many choices, they will choose none.  

If you give people a choice of one, two or three options they are much more likely to choose one and make a decision.

So communication is not just words out – it is paying attention to whether or not your intended audience can hear, understand and use the information you are communicating.

A visual that I use is to think of building a bridge with your words to bridge the gap between where you are and where your audience is listening from.

This is true for designing your advertising, communicating with customers, communicating with your team and your community.

A great model that demonstrates using communication effectively is something called Open File Syndrome, created by Shannon Waller as part of the Team Training at Strategic Coach. Open File Syndrome is simply paying attention to when you need to hear back confirmation that something has been completed – it is an Open File in your mind.

Often the entrepreneur (or the person delegating a task) forgets to ask for confirmation the task has been completed.

And when they think about it (or in other words worry about it), they are usually driving home, doing something outside of work or even waking up in the middle of the night.

So when the entrepreneur is back in the office, and runs across the person they asked to take care of the task, they ask “Did you contact Amy Smith and resolve her complaint?”

The problem is, to your team member it sounds as if you don’t trust them, and for you as the entrepreneur the Open Files take up too much brain space (and build stress).

And all that is really going on is you need to know when the “file” is resolved.

Share Open File Syndrome with your team. When you as the entrepreneur are delegating a task – let the team member know if the task is an Open File for you or not.

And if you forget and you follow up with your team – just tell them this is an Open File for you – what is the update. 

The essential ingredient in effective communication is paying attention to whether your intended audience can hear, understand and use what you want to communicate.

Build communication bridges and increase your results!


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