Email, Text, Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter and good old fashion books and talking! Does having so many options make us good communicators? Does the actual message content get through and does the receiver understand it?
A friend asked me that very question while we travelled together to a workshop recently and this is what I told him...
As a trainer, a lot of thought and careful planning goes into communication during our sessions. We have to come up with the best methods for our audience to ensure they benefit from their time with us learning a new skill. Often we have to think on our feet and adapt our method of communication to make sure everyone goes away with the same understanding.
Recently after providing the verbal explanation of a process, I saw a couple of puzzled faces looking back at me across the classroom. I grabbed a marker pen and drew the process in different colours using words, shapes and arrows. I noticed that heads were nodding and smiles appearing while notes were taken and an understanding was reached. I learned that what I had outlined as an explanation had worked for some people, but not given others the visual connection they needed to understand. Moving forward I added the diagram to my verbalisation of the process for the remainder of my courses and have been rewarded with no further puzzled faces at the sessions.
Sadly though, I have found that more widely in organisations, communications are left to chance. Key information buried in emails, people not feeding information back to colleagues and the obvious missed as it wasn’t spelt out!
A time change to the start of a training course wasn’t communicated clearly, which meant that attendees arrived half an hour early. The result of this was frustration when they came into the classroom to find me setting up asking, "why haven’t we started". Their initial thought was that I was delaying them and taking my time setting up instead of starting the course. After an explanation, apology and realisation that communication had broken down, it took a while for them to forget the incident and focus on the learning. It may have only been thirty minutes and everyone was early instead of late, but because of bad communication, it had a detrimental impact on the start of their day and learning.
The majority of my work is associated to learning new software. This goes beyond button pushing and into processes, but again, as the person leading and facilitating the learning, I often have to share more than I anticipate. Over the years I have heard things similar to... “I don’t know why I have been put on this training”, or, “the old system works OK so I don’t know why we are bothering to change” and I have been asked questions like, “is this still going to work alongside our other systems?” or “do I still need to do the other bit first?”
While all completely valid and understandable, these questions should not have made it into the training room. Organisations invest a lot of time, money and effort into changing, upgrading or purchasing new systems, but once the decision is made, they often move forward with implementation and overlook some key internal communications.
Sharing the journey, along with the reason why certain decisions were made as well as the long-term goals and not just the final decision would often help team members understand and engage better in any learning or training. Time taken by a trainer to answer these questions is removing learning time from the session. Also, the trainer may not have all the answers or may not give the message the organisation wanted to share. If you are an organisation making changes, just check in with your teams and ensure they understand the message through the communications.
As we arrived at our destination, my friend agreed with what I had been sharing, although I think he had began to regret asking! Having spent many years working in communication skills, he wasn’t surprised to learn that I occasionally encountered the results of a lack of communication too. With so many methods of communication, many seem to be failing at actually getting the message across.
If you would like information or advice on communications, take time to visit my friends website: http://fit2communicate.com