As an advisor to leadership teams, I increasingly hear the issues around overcommunication, particularly as they invade our personal space and time. I recently returned to New York from Los Angeles, and when I turned off airplane mode, found that I had 10 voice mails, 87 emails, and 17 texts – in 5 ½ hours. That’s insane. Now clearly, they were all not critical, and in truth, many were not even important. But I did need to look and listen to all of them to decide which ones were – and that in itself took time. This deluge of overcommunication has a few unintended consequences. It creates enormous frustration to both the sender and recipient, delays responses, and in some cases creates mistakes.
1. Establish a preferred communication channel within your company. Instead of having a variety of tools to communicate, specify whether phone, email or text is the primary channel. Explain to your team that in order for them to get a quick response, they should only use the designated method. Regardless of which channel you choose, you need to audit whether it is working and stick with it.
2. Establish communication time boundaries. Except in cases of real emergencies, which fortunately are infrequent, you need to designate some time brackets where it is totally acceptable for people to be “off the grid.” As a leader, you will need to discuss this with your team and decide together whether this includes dinner time, holidays, portions of weekends, etc. Everyone will be appreciative and be able to respond when they get back on the grid.
4. Prioritize. Create your own process for how and when you check your messages. Don’t look at your phone under the table while you are in meetings because you are then not fully present for that discussion. Try to set several times a day to check your messages – respond quickly and thoughtfully, returning to what you were doing with full attention now that they have been resolved. Of course, when an emergency happens, you need to handle it immediately – but again, 99% of what you are dealing with are not emergencies.
The big problem with overcommunication using these technology tools isn’t just that it’s annoying. It actually inhibits performance. Take a fresh look at how your organization communicates, implement these 4 tips, and see how much more effectively your organization will operate.
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