1…2…3: Grow a Healthy “Communication Tree”

Managing communications effectively is essential for developing your leadership skills, improving workplace productivity and minimizing unhealthy conflict.

  1. Determine Key Influencers/Aligners. Understand key personnel and stakeholders by groups (e.g., senior leadership, peers, and customers). Learn about the key individuals within each group, especially those you do not know well or with whom you do not have a strong working relationship.
    For each group or individual, develop lists of what they care about, their business needs and challenges, what you know about them, and how to interact with them. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and fill them with input from appropriate people.
  2. Decide How to Influence. Based on what you’ve learned, develop a strategy for working with these stakeholders. Prepare for each meeting by reviewing your objectives and desired outcomes. Ensure that your behaviors line up with your objectives. Know what questions to ask, what you want to learn, and also anticipate questions you might be asked.
    Use a variety of techniques to influence and communicate tailored for each person, remembering that some people are impacted by logic and numbers, others by a personal relationship, and still others by positive energy and enthusiasm.
  3. Leverage Information Gained. When making decisions, consider “who” needs to be involved and “how” they need to be involved. Ask yourself who should be informed of the decision, whose input should be solicited, and who should be involved in the decision-making.
    Learn to anticipate others’ questions and concerns. Identify each stakeholder’s perspective – the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) – and the risks and/or benefits he/she is likely to see.
    Consider making a “communication list” for key stakeholders, where you track what each needs to know about your work. When the opportunity arises to update a stakeholder, your list will help ensure you do not miss important discussion topics.