Communicating about your work is part of the job


Hi there,

Working is far more than just getting your work done. Working is communicating – about what you’re working on, what it’s going to take to get it done, about what to prioritize, what you’ve run into, about sharing fresh insights and new directions.

Today, five thoughts on communicating and work:


1. Try communicating early and often

It’s simple advice, but as we saw in last week’s newsletter, simple advice is often good advice.

Involve others in your work from the start. Then bring issues up as you encounter them – don’t presume things can wait. Call the right people together and clarify matters sooner rather than later.

Not only is it irritating when things are unclear, it can also drive up costs. By pointing out that error you see before suppliers run with the plans, you can save thousands of euros with a single phone call. Score!

2. Listen first

Just sitting down together doesn’t magically solve any problems. How come? Mostly because we tend to focus on telling our own story. And we communicate in ways that work for us, and not necessarily for our listener.

Stephen Covey, who brought us his classic seven habits of highly effective people (here’s a great animated summary), talks about this in Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. That’s of course far easier said than done. But if you get where the other person’s coming from, then communication goes more smoothly.

One easy path to greater understanding: Ask questions.

3. Adapt your method to fit the listener

Stick with the method that works best for your listener, not what’s easiest for you.

That means you have to know how your listener works. Do they prefer short and to the point? Great. Do that.

Are they more visually-oriented? Then don’t send endless stretches of text, but break it up into chunks, with illustrations.

Not sure what works best for others? Just ask.

4. Nothing wrong with over-communicating

I’m continually amazed how often I’ll think the other person knows what I’m talking about, only to find out my message has not come across. I could get frustrated when people have questions about things I think I’ve already made clear. Far more productive, however, is to figure out how to share key messages more often.

When I worked at Blendle, I had 3 channels I would use: the All Hands gathering (where teams present plans over drinks), a weekly product update for employees (by email), and the team meetings I attended. For me, it sometimes felt repetitive to share the same update, but that was seldom the case for those listening.

Over-communication can be especially useful in crisis situations, to get everyone focused and moving in the same direction. But it’s helpful anytime. Repetitive communication reassures people they’re on the same page, so everyone can do their work with more focus and less stress.

Better to communicate repeatedly and carry out the work once, than the other way around.

5. Communication = work

Getting your work done is one thing. But how often have you been waiting on work from a colleague or a client, only to find out it’s long finished. That’s sure to happen to them sometimes, too. And so we all lose valuable time.

The takeaway? Your work isn’t done when you finish that new design, proposal, or quote. It’s only done once you tell the people you work with that it’s done. Communication isn’t something extra, to top off your work, it’s an integral part of the job.

Have a good week!

Rick