Last week I started this series on company communication with some definitions (imagine that!). I shared the definitions of the words “company,” “communicate,” and “Inform(ation).” I also pointed out that the “company” for which these “Cs” are relevant is any group of people. These are just principles of good communication.
When I arrived at my last job I interviewed each of the leaders on my team with the same questions. One of those questions was “what one thing could we improve that would make the biggest difference.” People gave several answers to that question, but the number one answer was “communication.” That would be the answer in many organizations.
Research shows that time spent on calls, emails, and meetings has increased by 25 percent to 50 percent in the last two decades. It also reveals that while companies host an average of 61 meetings per month, an estimated $37 billion is wasted annually due to employee misunderstanding (including actions or errors of omission by employees who have misunderstood or were misinformed about company policies, business processes, job function or a combination of the three) in … corporations in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Last week we talked about good communication is clear and concrete. This week we look at two more Cs of good communication.
The definition of “Concise” is – “giving a lot of information clearly and in a few words.” In fact “Clear and Concise” are often used together. Clear speaks to how understandable the communication is while concise is about how long it is.
Summarize your point. Provide background or additional information upon request. One communication technique I learned in healthcare is the SBAR. That stands for
- Situation – a brief statement of the problem
- Background – pertinent information about the development of the problem
- Assessment – analysis and consideration of options (what you found or think)
- Recommendation/Request – action you want taken
That’s one guide to help you organize your thoughts. Organized thinking is easier to make concise. I found a writing guide put out by Stanford University that offers great tips for writing clearly and concisely. It’s geared toward technical writing which is often the most unclear so it’s helpful for those of us trying to communicate non-technical information. Some of their tips, to whet your appetite, include:
- Avoid unnecessary fancy words; use straight-forward words
- Replace vague words with specific ones
- Eliminate unnecessary words
- Replace multiple negatives with affirmatives
- Use active voice construction when appropriate
There are more tips and they all have examples. I downloaded the paper and plan to use it as a reference in the future. You’ll have to let me know if my writing improves!
This might sound like a contradiction. I just suggested using as few words as possible to be concise. Now I’m suggesting you leave nothing out. Which is it? Well, it’s both. the definition of “Concise” was “to give a lot of information . . . in a few words.” Complete communication is about what you choose to include.
We sometimes skew information by leaving parts out. When we do that our communication is biased in favor of our point of view or of what we want. Biased communication is often detectable and diminishes trust. You may have heard the term “fake news.” That’s what people will think of you if your communication is found to be incomplete, especially if your omissions tend to alter the hearer’s perception of reality.
Concise is about sharing as much as you can in as few words as possible. Complete is about making your communication as real as possible. The more accurately your communication reflects reality, especially if it doesn’t put you in the best light, the more people will trust what you say.
Be clear. Be Concrete. Be Concise. Be Complete. Next week we’ll finish out this series with the final two Cs of Company Communication.