Outstanding communications may be the most critical ingredient in everything you do as a Middle. You need to take the lead in improving and directing communications between you and your Teamers, Senior(s), Clients, Partners, Coworkers and basically the rest of your Organization and perhaps the world.
This post will help you get the best communications possible with these ideas, tips, techniques and processes.
Meetings - Meetings can be “the best of times, the worst of times” (my apologies to Mr. Dickens). Face it; most meetings are a waste of time and money. But a well run meeting can identify problems, focus your team on quality and improve the overall performance of your team. Well run meetings have certain key ingredients. Here are a few from my book that I offer for your consideration.
- Never go to or schedule a meeting without an agenda, that is what topics to discuss, who will discuss each topic and why and the time estimate for each topic
- Always work to keep meetings to one hour or less.
- Always use a facilitator to keep the meeting on schedule, a scribe to keep notes and a time keeper to stay within the time estimates for each topic.
- No cell phones permitted unless it is a REAL emergency!
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
- Leonardo da Vinci
The “Rumor Round-Up” Agenda Item - This was always the final agenda item for any meeting that I’ve ever managed. Simply take time at the end of the meeting to ask your Teamers if they have heard any “rumors” that are flying around and do your best to get back to the person with the question or concern. I suggest that you use this item as a way to head off problems before they can get serious.
“Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.”
- Shana Alexander
The Walk-Thru Session - Use the Walk-Thru session to gain Teamer consensus on project objectives and plans so that everyone can move forward on projects knowing what is expected. No matter what the project, there should be a written “document” that describes the project, that is what’s to be done and how and when that all of the Teamers assigned to the project have reviewed and approved.
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”
- Warren Buffett
Listen First and Watch What You Say - As a Middle you need to listen to people first and also to watch the words and phrases that you say. You are under the microscope by your Senior, your clients and your Teamers. Not many workers have that dilemma to face each day. You really are “caught” in the middle!
“Words have special powers. The power to create smiles or frowns. The power to generate laughs or tears. The power to lift up or put down. The power to motivate or de-motivate. The power to teach good or evil. The power to express love or hate. The power to give or take. The power to heal or harm. Choose your words carefully.”
- A. D. Williams
Internal Communications - These are communications with your Teamers. I always had a project status meeting every week, always on the same day and time to make it habit forming for everyone. I also had impromptu staff meetings when some information would come my way. I always wanted my Teamers to hear the news from me rather than as a rumor or from someone else.
“Ears that hear and eyes that see – the Lord has made them both.”
- Proverbs 20:12
External Communications - These are communications with the “rest” of the Organization and perhaps the outside world. This represents a very diverse collection of audiences and information needs. I suggest that you do everything possible to have one report rather than multiple ones that covers your policies, your message(s), your processes, your current staffing level, the latest status on all projects and your current quality improvement efforts.
“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.”
– Vernon Howard
Reports for Your “Clients” - These are specific reports to your clients typically on project status. Your clients simply want to know the latest status on their projects. You must provide them with an easy way to look for the status of their projects without “bugging” you and your Teamers too often. I suggest that you provide them with “read-only” access to your status report and make sure that you and your Teamers keep this report updated to reflect the latest information on each project.
“Written reports stifle creativity.”
- Ross Perot
Tell Them What You Heard Them Tell You – I developed this simple technique long ago to help ensure understanding and agreement with others. Whenever meeting with someone or a group, I always summarized and repeated back to them what I had heard them say and commit to.
For example, assume that you are discussing the plans for a direct-mail campaign to generate new sales in a meeting with Teamers you might follow up with, “OK, I just heard that the copy and graphics will be finalized by the twelfth, and if we allow five days for printing and two days for mailing, we should have our Call Center ready to receive calls on the twentieth. Correct?” Always repeat what you’ve heard back to everyone to seek a simple yes-or-no response, no maybes permitted. Never just assume that everyone knows and agrees with the commitments that have been made.
“The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about the given situation. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.”
- Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements