Discussing communication mechanics can be a monstrous proposition, so let’s boil it down. This is basic stuff:
If there is a problem with someone, have a meeting immediately. Talk it out one-on-one. If silence ensues, do something to promote dialogue. But be careful. If emotions are running high, put point-of-sale aside and wait for the situation to calm down.
Be accessible. Give people an opportunity to leave a private message if you are not available. Can the people who are important to you reach you readily, or are there mechanical, bureaucratic, and/or psychological barriers?
Promote fluid discourse by making communication tools available to your staff and by providing various meeting opportunities for one-on-one conversation. Scheduled group meetings are prime tools that provide everyone a forum for communicating. But keep meetings brief.
Can your staff, clients, and potential clients find out more about you through a website or social media? Do you talk about yourself to the people around you, or do you stay on the sidelines? Mysterious people typically don’t do well in business or friendship.
Yes, it’s important to keep lines of communication open, but are you going back and forth with a person who routinely works against you? This could be in a family or friend relationship, or with an employee or client. If the other party’s intentions are systematically contrarian or malevolent, it’s irrational to continue to communicate. End the relationship. You are not in the business of defending yourself or being coerced. Do you have a close family member who is on the attack or is a crazy-maker? If so, I sympathize. That’s a tough one.
Get to the point. Unless you are at a barbecue on a Saturday afternoon, cut yourself and those around you a break by getting on with things.
Be cordial and friendly, but don’t overdo it.
Never bash others behind their backs. It’s low class, and any employee, client, or relative who has any degree of sophistication will consciously or subconsciously devalue you. Talk up to people if that is the context. Your client, who is paying you, wants the bottom line—your personal friendship or clever witticisms are not part of the deal. Likewise, with your boss, while you take direction and provide information, be cordial but not too cordial.
Speak authoritatively and clearly to the people you supervise. What they want from you is concise direction, respect, and paychecks that arrive on time.
You aren’t pals with your child, you’re the parent. Act like one. Don’t try to be some kid down the block, or Santa Claus. Be the adult/parent template he or she requires. It’s disturbing to see a father down on all fours, goo-gooing with an infant; yet on the other hand, it’s equally unnerving to see a father speaking man to man with his four-year-old, reasoning and explaining as if the child were an adult.
In perfecting the primary communication mechanism for staff at Centratel, we didn’t limit ourselves to subsystem devices, methods, and policies. Here’s an example: our physical office is part of our communications strategy. Burning up time looking for each other is utterly wasteful so we provide a subsystem to prevent it: glass walls between offices. Each administrative office has them on three sides so staff can always see one another. To determine the availability of another manager, all we do is raise our heads to see whether the person we need is busy talking to another staff member or whether he or she is on the phone. There is no need to call or get up in order to investigate availability.
The TAS operations department—the heart of the service we provide—is in the center of the office space, with the previously-described administrative offices around the edges of the room. It’s a psychological reminder for everyone that the main purpose of our business is to take and deliver messages.
Our office is an energizing space, too. Open and bright, it promotes positive group chemistry as each of us sees the rest of the team quietly hammering away. We’re all in this together!
Yet, I do my part of management without having to be in the office. My in-office capabilities are available anywhere I travel because I have access to all files and I can videoconference with my iPad. With no fuss, I’ve led staff meetings from all over the world. Intense management of communications systems delivers freedom.
This essay has been adapted from the book by Sam Carpenter, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, Third Edition.
Note: Centratel CEO and international business consultant Sam Carpenter has written extensively on the concepts of system improvement and the systems mindset. Centratel’s Medical Answering Service assists hundreds of clinics during and after-hours, throughout the United States and is, by a variety of statistics, the highest quality answering service available among the approximately 1,500 services nationwide.
Photo Credits: Egor Gribanov