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A quick online search will show that communication is one of the most important skills that employers are looking for. Additionally, good communication skills are becoming even more valuable as remote work becomes ubiquitous.
With the importance of good communication skills, one may find themselves asking: how can I improve my communication skills?
1. Write clear, concise emails and instant messages.
When writing emails, try to be very clear in communicating what the purpose of the email is. If there is an action item that should arise from this email, then communicate that clearly. Keep the message as concise as possible. Provide the information that is absolutely necessary to support the purpose of the email, but no more. By eliminating the “fluff” from the email, you can save your own precious time, as well as the recipient’s time.
Additionally, the purpose of the email should be communicated as early as possible. As mentioned in a previous article of mine, I recommend including the purpose within the first two lines of the email. As the purpose is moved further down in the email, the risk increases that the reader may miss the purpose altogether.
2. Send out meeting agendas and summaries.
When setting up a meeting, share a meeting agenda with the meeting’s attendees. There are many benefits to this. First of all, putting together a meeting agenda will ensure that the discussion topics are known and well-defined ahead of time. If is difficult to compile an agenda for a specific meeting, then please take some time to think about whether that meeting is really necessary.
Secondly, a meeting agenda will help keep the meeting on topic, and maximize the efficiency of the meeting. It may be surprising to find that meetings end more quickly when an agenda has been fabricated for those meetings. This frees up additional time for all meeting attendees, empowering them to get more work done.
Once the meeting has ended, a meeting summary should be shared with all meeting attendees. This ensures that the highlights of the meeting, including any action items, have been well documented and everyone is aware of them. A good meeting summary will be clear in communicating what action items have been assigned to whom, and what the timelines for those action items are. Once again, this empowers the meeting attendees to be more productive. It also has the benefit of allowing everyone to search back through their emails to find historical notes.
3. Don’t just communicate, over-communicate.
Last, but definitely not least, over-communicate! Share frequent updates with the team on the progress of tasks. Ask questions when answers are needed, and then share those answers with others who may find them useful. Collaborate with others in scenarios where two heads might be better than one. Coordinate clear timelines to complete action items, and then share those agreed-upon timelines with everyone involved.
Document, document, document! Document everything in a shared location for the entire team to access and review.
Over-communicating facilitates powerful collaboration. Over-communicating will ensure that the entire team is always on the same page. Additionally, it will greatly increase the number of opportunities for team members to share their insights and feedback with one another. Teams can achieve much more when every team member is empowered and has an opportunity to share their ideas and knowledge.
Remember the age-old acronym for TEAM: together everyone achieves more!