I was recently out to lunch with Andrew, a new client in Manhattan who seemed to be overwhelmed with the incessant demands on his time. Despite the restaurant being somewhat noisy, I could hear his iPhone constantly buzzing in his pocket. While he continuously apologized, his stress level increased with each notification. Finally he pulled his phone out to turn it off, but I stopped him and asked how many of those calls, texts, emails, tweets, or messages were personal and how many were for business.
"I don't even need to look at my phone to tell you, it's all business," he said while shaking his head in frustration.
It was obvious to see that one of Andrew's problems is that he was being stretched too thin. Overcommunication is an increasingly evident problem today and it seems to be getting worse. Fortunately, there are solutions.
The following techniques will help you proactively manage communications in your company.
1. Set boundaries.
Leadership means being there for your employees. It does not, however, mean being available 24/7. To stop yourself from becoming overwhelmed, set up availability times for yourself and your employees. Also, promote unplugging outside of work -- but make sure communication is quick and concise when plugged in.
2. Shut down silos.
Time and time again, I find one of the biggest communication issues with companies is departmental silos. Mistakes happen because departments and individuals fail to share information between themselves. Encourage cross-functional teams to solve multi-departmental issues, encourage full transparency and call out behavior that is not consistent with your guidance.
3. Stay consistent.
There are many communication platforms these days and many companies allow most or all of them to be used. Determine which one or two platforms make most sense for your company, and eliminate the others. Let everyone know that using the approved platforms will substantially improve your communications.
Many leaders believe it is easier to do certain tasks than taking the time to explain the project to someone else. While it may be easier the first time, you ultimately wind up doing the same task yourself multiple times. Spend the time to hire the right people, make sure they are trained, and let them do their jobs. Your job is to empower them, not to do their work.
5. Stop micromanaging.
Are you a micromanager? Most people would say no even if they are. Most micromanagers behave this way due to a fundamental lack of trust with some or specific employees.
Make sure you have employees in place that are well-suited, well-trained, and share a common vision with you and the company. This is your responsibility and the best way to eliminate any need, real or perceived for you to micromanage.
6. Stop wasting time.
Look at your recent history of emails, texts, or messages. How many of them were employees asking for approval or adhering to an archaic system of checks and balances?
You may have a slew of formalities in place that are wasting time and bogging you down with unnecessary replies. Once again, this boils down to trust. You must have men and women in place that you know will do a good job -- it's up to you to bring them to that level of competency.
7. Stop talking and focus on action.
Now is the time to focus on your communications with everyone in your organization. You want to make sure everyone is on the same page and most importantly, that they are comfortable raising questions to you and your leadership team is there is any confusion. Now, at this time of the year, the focus must be on execution, execution, and execution.