Over the years, I have worked in a variety of service management roles with a people who have a wide diversity of skills. One area that always seems to be overlooked is the ability to communicate well with a multitude of stakeholders. Even for seasoned professionals the ability to communicate effectively can be a challenging endeavor, so I have listed out my top five time-tested tips.
Tip #1: Targeted Audience
Not everyone needs to know everything. While we might believe that we are being more transparent by telling everyone everything, what really happens is that the communications that we send (no matter what the delivery method) starts to become white noise. The risk is that no one is reading the communications at all.
Ensure that you are telling only people what they need to know based on direct impact to them. For example, if I were to send you the weather report for the city of Edinburgh every day, there would be little value unless the weather was impacting your business critical infrastructure in that city, the staff all lived there or regularly traveled there.
Understand the business you are communicating to so that the information is of particular value for them.
Tip #2: Targeted Content
The wider the net of communication, the more sanitized the content becomes. We do not need to overcomplicate the communication with technical details. Make the communication meaningful.
In the case of an incident, outline what the impact will be. Are there any actions that the person reading the communication will need to perform? Are these actions outlined in a way that they can be easily understood without creating more questions or confusion?
Once again, if you understand the business you are serving, you will have a message that is meaningful to the audience.
If you understand the business you are serving, you will have a message that is meaningful to the audience.
Tip #3: Communicate About Communication
Effective communication requires considerable effort. This means that we never really become masters of communication, only that we strive to reach a level of mastery that it enables us to accomplish particular goals we have set out. This means that in our effort to ”keep at it,” we must continually review with people in the business to ensure that we are hitting the target.
Actually, meet with the stakeholders in the business to ensure that they understand the intent of the communication process as a whole, and if adjustments need to be made, take action on them. Business entities change over time, from the people within a team to leadership direction changes from the team. This shift can impact the way that the business you are working with wants to consume communication over time. So listen to them and be adaptable.
It all starts with talking with your business and keeping the discussion going, so that you have a strategy and approach to communication rather than treating it as an output to a process.
Tip #4: Push vs. Pull
In many cases, there is the expectation that communication needs to be delivered through some manner of push notification. If this is assumed, this too should be reviewed with the business.
Depending on how you provide support, there may be a place for people in the business to pull their own communications or access them in a place where they may interface with support resources on a self-service portal. Some business units might want a different delivery method and timing than others, so listen to them.
Tip #5: Assumption
Have you ever sent a communication to let people know to complete an action and they seemed to do the exact opposite? It’s important to reflect on what you are communicating and don’t make assumptions that people will understand what you say. Assumption can lead people to feel confused and ultimately have a lasting impression on the how people interpret the communications you send in the future.
There are so many ways that assumptions could be a problem, so don’t assume to know what all of them are. When you are looking to communicate, take the previous tips into consideration to ensure that we can see the whole picture. If you aren’t sure about how something around the communication will be received reach out to people in the potential audience to see what the right approach will be. This transparency with them will not only improve your communications but also build relationships with those you provide services to.
Make Communication Meaningful
Overall your ability to be an effective communicator will require you to have meaningful discussions with the people who you are communicating with. The needs of the business are ever evolving. Just when you think that you may have met their needs, you still need to work at it to ensure long-lasting success.
Ryan Ogilvie has been working in the service management space since 2006. A keen student of the service management ecosystem, he first started blogging after feeling a responsibility to share what he’d learned to a wider community. While his professional focus is IT service management, his experience has taught him that leveraging a variety of frameworks and communication styles will enable your business to meet its business outcomes. Follow him on Twitter @ryanrogilvie.