Understanding different communication channels

Understanding communication channel and flow.png

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.— Plato

There is no more important leadership skill than being an effective communicator. However being an effective communicator is one of the most challenging things for any manager. Human beings have developed so many ways of getting their msg across. What communicationsbegan first with hands signals and pictures, developed into thousands of spoken and written languages. Communication changed even further with the development of; mail service, the telephone, the internet, social media and text messaging to name but a few. Work communication went from being mainly face to face communication in the same location to modern international companies where workers communicate with each other and colleagues via handfuls of means from various points in the world. More communication channels however does not in itself equal better communication, it rather just means we have more opportunities to get our msg across in more instant and frequent ways but we still need to learn to use them well.

There is no more important leadership skill than effective communication.

Communication means can be separated into three methods: spoken, written and visual and of course each has many sub types.  how-do-we-communicate-2Spoken can be face to face done one to one, via a group meeting or presentation or could be done without being face to face i.e. phone or video call. Written communication likewise could be little notes or long detailed letters or digital emails or the more deceiving  “digital face to face” social media or modern text messaging. Visual communication could be hand signals or body language, including simply smiling, and of course will more often be subconscious than conscious. In every day at work we are communicating information through multiple ways and learning to choose the right communication channel for each msg we want to get across is vitally important, especially for leaders.

Great work communicators understand the benefits and disadvantages of the different communication methods.

Looking at the table below we can see some of the benefits and disadvantages of the most common work communication methods. The first four are all oral communication and the last four written. Oral communication naturally is more closely connected to the benefits of trust and relationship building and written is more effective in communicating things agreed and in general is less obtrusive, as it normally allows the receiver to read it in their own time.

Benefits of different communication methods

An effective communicator is someone who knows how to use each communication mechanism at their disposal in the right scenarios. Referring below we can see that in general due to greater trust levels that come from face to face communication, it is best communication method for one to one feedback and for coaching and development, as well as for complicated negotiation. It is not however a good way of recording what was agreed as it dependent on memory and interpretation which a written document is not. Also face to face contact, unlike written communication, are not as effective at conveying multiple messages as when dealing with things face to face you have to absorb and understand all information in one moment whereas written you can refer back to it and take in the data on your own terms. Likewise group meetings are great for creating team mission and for quick team updates or training, however they are not the forum for dealing with staff personal issues and our huge time wasters if you use them to cover mundane or established tasks, which are far more efficiently communicated via work task management or communication systems. Audio and Video Calls are a necessarily communication method with clients and suppliers and with team members not in the same location. However normally it is harder to build trust levels than it is in face to face so where possible it should never be seen as a complete replacement for this real contact.

Spoken Benefits

All written communications likewise have a similar mix of stronger and weaker aspects. Email is the most accessible form of communication globally as it is pretty much usable by everyone. It is also an acceptable way to make that first contact where many other means are not. However email is widely open to miss-understandings and is a poor alternative for coordination compared to proper task management systems. Work communication systems are necessary in any work environment where a lot or people communicate and many things are coordinated. They are very good for the team working together on well understood tasks but are often poor in encouraging outside the box thinking. Also where possible managers should avoid communicating personal, challenging information via group work systems, this is a sure way to lose staff loyalty. Text can be an excellent instant reminder, or a superb final coordinator of simple things, like where shall we met and when. However it is an inexperienced and generally weak manager who believes that text can be used as an effective way to coordinate team work tasks. Text encourages people to react quickly without thought and usually without referring to additional data. It is also – unlike other written communication – obtrusive, usually interrupting us and taking our focus away from what we are doing. Any company who think whats app can be used to manage team tasks, will quickly find themselves dangerously disappointed. Finally CRM and Data management systems are essential for allowing us to compute vital client and supplier data, but usually they are not equipped for task management and are poor at encouraging people to use initiative so should usually not be used for team and task communication.

written communication benefits

A great manager leading a team must learn well not just how to communicate effectively but also how to use the different communication methods as their disposal. Using them correctly for the right topics, will not only help your team work more effectively on their tasks but also create higher trust levels which will make a happier more unified team unit. So as a great manager start learning the advantages of the communication systems you have in your work environment and learn which you should be using to achieve your objectives as no one system will be enough by itself, you need to work out how harness the benefits of all of them.

Great managers communicate the right message in the right way and in the correct moment.

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