Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communicating more effectively as a job and career skill set 13: spontaneity and calculated planning, and their roles in ongoing communications processes

This is my thirteenth installment to a series on what is one of the most important, and also one of the most commonly problematical of all workplace skills: communicating with others, and as an effective two (or more) way process (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 342 and following for Parts 1-12.)

I have been writing about communicating strategically throughout the first twelve postings to this series, but step back in a way from that perspective with this series installment. It is important to think and act strategically and certainly in our communications and in how we respond to others as they seek to communicate with us. But communication loses a great deal of its impact and effectiveness if it comes across as being calculating or if we come across as simply pursuing an agenda. We have to be ready for and responsive to the unexpected and in both what others share with us and in what we might have to convey to them too. So I write here about finding an effective balance between planning and strategy on the one hand, and spontaneity and flexibility in how we communicate on the other.

There is no one best balancing point there. If we find ourselves in a discussion that calls for open and creative discussion and brainstorming, resilient spontaneity and in-the-moment creativeness are crucial, even if we still need to maintain a strategic awareness of this conversation and its possibilities too. If we have to prepare a supporting document that would become a part of an official record, and have to meet specific content and format goals in doing so then strategic planning can present itself as our best practices approach for that set of circumstances – but we still need to be open to a full range of ideas and possibilities in what we write too.

• With this in mind, it is important to consider what “spontaneous” means here, as it specifically does not mean careless or unconsidered. Think through what you say and certainly what you put in writing.
• If you are speaking online through a web conferencing or other channel, treat that the same way you would for your written communications, where you have to assume that everything will be stored as a matter of permanent record.
• And be as attentive to what others say or put in writing as you do of your own communications.
• If appropriate take notes and either while an exchange of information or ideas is taking place or immediately afterwards when your memory of the details is still fresh. And note who said what and when and where. This can be invaluable later if you need to meet with those same people in continuing a discussion, and both for continuing it and for demonstrating that you really listen to them. This can be important for documenting decisions made and the reasoning behind them for the record.

Tactical deals with the immediate here and now, and strategic plans around the bigger picture and longer term. Think and act tactically and also think strategically in your business communications.

I am going to turn in my next installment to this series to more explicitly address the issues of communicating more effectively in a ubiquitously connected and connectable context with instant messaging and Skype, email and its issues and social media and so much more. I add in anticipation of that:

• The issues I have been discussing in this posting have become increasingly important in principle, and also increasingly complex in practice
• And particularly with the proliferation of new communications and information sharing channels and with their combinations of immediacy and persistence.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. You can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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