how to communicate effectively

The message is clear, but which cat is it?

I see it time and time again in almost every company I have worked in. Leaders “communicating” important information in ways that really don’t work. Learning how to communicate effectively is a key leadership skill.

Emails land in the inbox with key messages hidden inside mountains of links and text and it is up to the reader to work out what is important.

I noticed this at a large government client I consulted to recently. Managers received a newsletter email every week from the central department with up to 20 links in it. It was the responsibility of the manager to work out what was important for them and what was not.

Often each link led to the main intranet, which required a series of further steps to find the information. The loss of time and potential for miscommunication in this example was huge.

Sometimes organisations use a “town hall” meeting to inform people of important events or news. I guess it’s too bad if you aren’t able to attend the meeting.

It is your responsibility as a leader to know how to communicate effectively

It is not up to your audience to remember everything that goes into their inbox or was said in a meeting. It’s up to you to communicate effectively.

The point is, just because you have sent an email or mentioned something to somebody, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the message is getting through.

1. Communicate effectively by prioritising what your team really needs to know

In order to ensure that your message has the best chance of getting through, prioritisation is key.

Here is a quick test. What do you think is the most important piece of information in this list?

  1. The company has just been nominated in the Best Whatever of the Year awards
  2. Beatrice is having her birthday next Tuesday
  3. When you send out invoices, please use the latest template because the payment terms have changed
  4. Next Friday is “dress up like a pirate day”

That’s right, in most circumstances, number 3 is going to be the most important message to communicate. This means that you should prioritise this message above the others.

2. Communicate effectively by using the right method

If Beatrice is having her birthday next Tuesday, perhaps that can go on the local office notice board.

Dress up like a pirate day might be a good message to put up on posters in lunchrooms or the big screen TVs around the company.

Nomination in the Best Whatever awards could be a news item on the company intranet.

For your invoicing changes, you really want it to sink in, otherwise you are going to be interfering with your ability to take payments from your customers. There will be no pirate day if your company has no money.

You might decide that you need to communicate the invoicing information in person to your team. Along with this you could update any official documents and at invoicing time, you’d reinforce this message by identifying the staff who actually send invoices and give them an email reminder. You could even add a bright, distinctive message to your financial software so that people are reminded for a short period while the message sinks in.

Related: Why Leaders Need to Choose the Right Communication Method.

3. Communicate effectively by choosing the right audience

Beatrice’s birthday might be something of interest to everyone. I can guarantee that not everyone will care about the change to the invoicing process, because a lot of people wouldn’t be involved in that as part of their day job. So why send messages about invoicing to everybody?

If you continue to bombard lots of disinterested people with communication that is not relevant, they will begin to choose for themselves which messages they listen to. This is not what you want. You want fewer messages, to the right people.

Learn how to communicate effectively. Prioritise, Choose the right channel, Select the right audience.

That’s the way the message gets through. And nobody misses Beatrice’s birthday.