Some quick, big wins (or ‘how to improve a lot without doing much’)

25th February 2014

Here are two big ‘time absorbers’ with communication:

  1. When it doesn’t work – all that chasing up, soul searching… not to mention all those feelings of regret; and
  2. Spending ages de-briefing, and working out how to do things better next time

This tip will address both.

Here are some extremely quick ways (they take only a few minutes each) to communicate much better:

#1 Stop doing pointless things

Think of all the communications you regularly send. Which would do zero harm if you stopped? You know, those communications that nobody would mind/notice if they didn’t get any more?

And, once you know what they are? Stop doing them.

#2 Write your last slide first

When your last slide says “thank you”, your audience will say “you are welcome”. And that’s it.

And if that’s your only outcome, why absorb so many man-hours (both yours and the audience’s) doing it in this way? Why not email them the content with a note saying “call if you have any questions”?

Or, as per point #1: if it will do zero harm, just don’t send the info at all.

#3 Pick the phone up

Email chains take ages, usually ‘cc in’ irrelevant people and achieve little. So call people instead.

Or – and I know this is wildly revolutionary thinking – walk to their desks and have a chat. One thing I see all too often: people complain that their leaders don’t have the time to show their face.

(By the way, here’s a rule of thumb for you: whenever you hear the phrase ‘don’t have the time to’, replace it with ‘don’t see it as enough of a priority to’).

#4 Reduce the length of your meetings

Never say meetings will last 60 minutes, or they will. Instead, say they’ll last a maximum of 45 minutes. Then they will. Similarly, make 30-minute meetings last “a maximum of 20”.

This is unlikely to cause you any problems. After all, you – and most of the other attendees – think they drag on anyway. So shorten them.

It would take virtually no time to implement these techniques – just a few minutes only. But it could save you – and others – hours.

Even better, if they’re pointless, stop them.

Or if a meeting is needed, but you don’t need to go, send your apologies and don’t. That’s an hour back for a start. You can always ask for copies of the Actions Arising.

So, which first?

Can you think of any good reason why you wouldn’t do this straight away?

If it helps, here’s a reminder of the rule of thumb: if you’re thinking you ‘don’t have the time to’, replace it with ‘don’t see it as enough of a priority to’).

Action point

Spend 2 minutes looking at today’s diary. What communication is definitely going to take too long? What can you do now, to make sure it doesn’t later?

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