Copyright to Michael Feuer, © 2011
Published here January 2012

Editor's Note | Introduction | Too Much Information
Tips 1 to 3: Clarity; Voicemail, Email; and Conversations
Tips 4 to 6: Updates, Self-examination; Negatives
Tip #7: Message Packaging | Editor's Footnote

Tips 1 to 3: Clarity; Voicemail, Email; and Conversations

  1. Be clear about what you need. The first step in encouraging concise communication is to be straightforward about what you need. Don't expect your team members to pick up on the hints that you're dropping. In other words, if you don't want to read between others' lines, don't force them to do so with you. Remember, though, that one size does not fit all, so you may have to infuse your cut-to-the-chase request with humor or compliments to soften the message ... or you may have to resort to the "ton of bricks" approach!

    When someone is giving me way too much information, I politely interrupt and tell him or her that I recognize them as an expert on the subject matter being discussed. But then I say that since I know it's a given that you know your stuff, I only want a short sound bite. Usually, this strategy soon leads to more frequent one- or two-sentence summaries. If it doesn't, well that's when the ton of bricks comes in!"
  2. Overhaul Voicemail and Email. If some people are consistently wordy with you, odds are that they are also loquacious in most other situations, too. Asking them to put the bottom line upfront when they report to you is a good first step, but you need to make sure that they are applying this lesson to other aspects of their work. A good place to start is with voicemail and Email, since these forums are used frequently throughout the day.

    I suggest that you survey your team members' current responses for their business Email and telephone messages, and prepare to be shocked by the content and length. Then supervise the shortening process. You may even want to have your HR or PR department provide brief sample scripts for employees who have trouble keeping their messages short. Each script should be tailored to the person's job function and provide an alternate contact for emergencies. I think you'll find that your team appreciates the scripted assistance, because it gives them one less thing to worry about.
  3. Talk through conversations. Now that you've tackled Emails and recorded messages, it's time to move on to something a little less predictable: conversations. While you can't control every word that comes out of your team members' mouths, you can establish standards of what is appropriate. Tell them that brevity and clarity are key, and point out that these things will set your projects apart from the competition. After all, clients and callers will appreciate the chance to do as much talking and question-asking as they want.

    Also consider asking your team to end all conversations and messages with a tagline that expresses your project's best attribute. Some tried-and-true examples are: "Your satisfaction is our number-one priority" and "Getting to the point makes us better", or even point to one of your project's Key Success Indicators like: "Newer will be faster". This helps everyone to keep on target. I've found that clients respond to these better than gratuitous endings like "Have a stupendous day".
Too much information  Too Much Information

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