Here's the five big things I encourage my team, and myself, to practice every day to communicate better:

1. Leave Emotion Out of Any Written Communication

  • Emotions, tone, and other things that aren’t specifically related to the task at hand have a very high chance of being misinterpreted and misunderstood in written communication. 
  • Arguing back and forth over written communication is destined for failure.  If you find yourself about to send the second reply and it isn’t specifically task focused, stop.  Pick up the phone or go meet in person.

2. Clarify, Clarify, Clarify

  • Don’t assume that the person that requested something of you knows exactly what is/isn’t possible or even knows the full story.  Many times they do not.
  • If something has been requested of you that you don’t 100% understand, clarify it.
  • Completing work without 100% clarity of the task creates frustration for everyone. You're frustrated because you don’t feel you got clear direction, and the other person is frustrated because the work wasn’t done how they intended it.
  • It’s no ones fault but your own that you didn’t get clear direction.  If you don’t think it’s clear, speak up.

3. Speak Up

Great times to speak up:

  • Your workload doesn’t make sense or is not possible. Speak up so that the appropriate team can get your schedule adjusted.  Chances are they're not purposely trying to make your life hard, it may just be an oversight or a misunderstanding.
  • You need more time or resources to get something done.
  • You see a major problem or potential issue with a project or process.  If it’s an emergency, bring it up directly to your manager.  If not, add it to your team’s weekly meeting agenda.
  • Someone is preventing you from getting your work done.

What happens when something is requested of you and you think there is a better way or it’s just not a good idea?

  • First, specifically explain your reasons for this in a way that someone who doesn't have your expertise could understand.
  • If the person still requests it be done, do it.  You’ve spoken up.
  • If you feel that it is major enough that it should be given a second look, escalate it to your manager.  

4. Know When to Escalate to Your Manager

When to escalate to your manager:

  • When an authoritative decision needs to be made
  • When you feel a decision is being made that has large potential negative impact.
  • Someone is holding up your part of the process and they will not communicate with you when they will be finished or what is going on.
  • Someone refuses to answer your requests for clarification.
  • If your manager has asked you to do something that another team doesn’t agree with, inform the other team member that they will have to discuss that with your manager.  It is not your issue to resolve.

5. My favorite, remember to say Thank you.

It's amazing how little we do this and hear this from others.  We may feel thankful for what someone has done for us, but if we don't say it, they'll never know.

Who knows, you just might make someone's day.