When you think of great leaders throughout history, in politics, sports or business, many of the best all have one great thing in common: communication skills. People can rally around the right message and get a lot more done, and that makes the whole outfit just work better.
But not everyone is destined to be a great communicator, and even if your business is lead by someone with those skills, strong communication helps the business from top to bottom. Encouraging successful communication is therefore important, and its an area that should be invested in, specially now as many of us are still homebound.
And at the top, the answer might be obvious: hire a Communications expert. That works fine for broadcasting a message to the troops, but it won’t help your teams work together better. For that, you may want to share some basic lessons about communication, and how teams can get more done by communicating more effectively.
Today, we’ll look at the three different types of communication, and when it’s best to use them.
This form of communication is as old as time itself. It’s talking to people, and having the back and forth that comes with it. You say something to someone, and they respond back immediately.
In the modern office, this can take many forms. Of course, you can walk right up to someone and ask them a question, but you can also send them a private message, expecting a fast response. It can be a meeting of a team, all discussing the tasks they need to work on and the projects they need to accomplish.
While interactive communication is the most natural way most of us receive and share information, it has its time and place.
You want to encourage interactive communication when you need to get everything out on the table, or when something needs to get done immediately. Finding the right path for a project, brainstorming, and coaching should all be done interactively. In each of these instances, you need people to share their opinions, discuss and debate, and interpret their tone and emotional response to what’s being said.
On the other hand, you don’t want interactive communication when you simply need to get the job done. For example, in a town hall address, you simply want to message out the company’s priorities to the entire workforce, and you’re not really inviting a debate. For that, we have…
As opposed to interactive communication, a push communication emphasizes that someone is sending out information, but not necessarily looking for a response. And depending on the definition you find, it may not allow for any kind of response, although I think that goes to an extreme.
As mentioned earlier, Town Halls are a perfect example of a push communication. You have a message to put out there, and everyone is going to hear it. Similarly, memos, emails and reports are considered push communications.
Push communications work best in one of two scenarios. Either it’s a communication that you don’t need a response to, like a memo advising of a new lunchroom policy), or one that needs a non-urgent response, like a question about the upcoming next week’s tasks.
Push communications have their place, but they ultimately work best when they are paired with a combination of interactive and pull communications. There is often the need to get a message out there, big or small, but they were likely preceded by some interactive talks at higher levels, and then followed by a record for employees to later reference, and more talks with employees to make sure they are on board.
The disadvantage with push communications is that they can become a bit addictive, specially for a certain type of personality. Some leaders lean on email as both a way to make sure they communicate everything, and to keep a record of everything. This isn’t ideal as it robs others of the chance to interact with their bosses and colleagues over decisions made. And it also can become distracting, as many people will be drawn away from their task at hand if they see a new email come in. So sometimes, you want to default to…
If a push communication is someone sending their message, a pull is someone requesting that message. This is great for when you have large pieces of information that don’t convey as well from a talk or email, or when the information needs to be stored where all can access it.
This can be best exemplified by a company’s knowledge base, or openly accessible training materials. Any type of information that acts as a resource that employees may occasionally need to reference are very typical of pull communications.
It can also be the way some tasks are conveyed. While high-priority tasks might be conveyed either interactively or from a push form, other day to day tasks or low priority pieces may be listed out on a “Nice to have” board on a company resource, for employees to check on whenever they have free time. Pull communication of this latter type works wonderfully for teams that can be expected to be responsible and work on tasks without being prodded to do so.
Pull communications by nature should be the least distracting to someone trying to focus and do their job, and they fit in nicely with a communication strategy on their own. Generally though, communications that act as a resource are preceded by push communications at least once, to inform everyone of their existence.
Next time, we’re going to take an in depth look at interactive communications, and how you can get the most out of structured meetings and coaching sessions from your organization.