Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communicating more effectively as a job and career skill set 15: matching your communications needs and objectives with the channels that you would communicate through

This is my fifteenth 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 1-14.)

I have been posting to this blog for almost as long as I have been writing to it at all, about our rapidly emerging capabilities for ubiquitous, from anywhere to anywhere and at any time communications (see my October, 2009 posting: Business and Convergent Technologies 1 – a new emerging landscape of opportunity. And for further postings and series related to this general set of issues also see my directory: Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its page 2 continuation.)

Our emerging capability for ubiquitous communications, and even ubiquitous real-time communications represents a fundamental qualitative change in how we can and do communicate, and both in our private and personal lives, and in our professional and public lives. I began a discussion of how this reshapes and redefines business communications best practices in Part 14 with a more general introduction to this set of issues. And I continued from that starting point with at least a brief discussion of the need to present yourself as a professional when communicating in a professional context – or where your communicated image that you present of yourself could impact upon that. And I wrote of how the blurring of the distinction between work life and non-work, personal life means that everything you post or share online can potentially impact upon your professional image and reputation and your professional effectiveness.

I then stated at the end of Part 14 that I would focus here on short message communications, and particularly on instant messaging and Twitter, and on microblogging. And I begin that here and now and with the fundamentals.

• Most of the time when we communicate with our colleagues or with customers or other stakeholders, we do so under circumstances where everyone involved knows the context that our intended message fits into. When you are documenting work-related activities for later, out of context use and for an audience that you cannot expect to know the background or assumed reasoning or knowledge that a message would fit into, you have to provide background information, or at least enough of it so that what you have to say can make sense – and the right sense. But most of the time that type and level of supporting detail is unnecessary, and adding it in would simply distract from what you have to say now.
• This means that most business communications can be brief, and even very brief – and brevity and specificity of focus can be a real virtue. “What time is our meeting going to be today?” “3:30 PM, and glad you asked as I just found out that we have to move it to conference room 17, from our usual room. I’ll notify the rest of the committee on that.” Everyone attending these meetings knows what committee they are on and why the meetings are being held. If anyone is web conferencing in, the room location will not matter so these messages need not mention them. Brevity and focus means that what really has to be communicated is , and that it does not get lost in unnecessary details.
• Pick your communications channels with your communications needs and your audience in mind, and keep what you say brief and to the point where that is appropriate.

That addresses the possibility of over-communicating. Under-communicating can be just as problematical.

• Is there something left out in my meeting scheduling and update messages example here, that would blind-side participants because they were not given a heads-up on it in shared communications exchanges before this upcoming meeting?

“Oh yes, our department head and the CEO will be there so be ready to briefly present on what you have been doing on this project up to here. A BRIEF Powerpoint would help.” Leave out a detail like that at your own risk.

• When you communicate professionally, your goal should be to communicate the right information in the right level of detail,
• Through communications channels that the people you need to communicate with will use and positively respond to,
• And without extraneous detail added – and without important details being left out.

And write for clarity and precision, and ask for clarification from others if needed. This is important. Brief does not need to mean careless or without thought as to detail – and in fact brief demands a higher level of clarity and thought if it is to be as meaningful as it is succinct. Short message communicate as if your boss and their boss were on the distribution list, for expressed clarity and professionalism.

As a final thought here, I wrote in Part 14 of how attempted humor can be misunderstood, and how as a result it can prove more problematical than beneficial. If you use humor, do so with care and sparingly. But just avoid spreading gossip completely, and particularly if it could be construed as being derogatory or defamatory in nature. Gossip and participation in spreading it are at the very least, poison to professionalism and to a professional reputation. They can also carry overt legal risk and the words libel and slander come to mind in that context. And never use emoticons or other graphical shorthand in professional communications.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will delve into the issues of real-time synchronous, and asynchronous communications. 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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