Cut through the noise to communicate


How many email messages do you get in a day? Many leaders I know get several hundred. On top of that, their day will be spent talking on the phone or Skype, using instant messaging all day, being interrupted for “urgent” matters, and attending meetings. Hurray! All that great communication going on must be a great thing!

Unfortunately much of it is just noise. I’m willing to bet that 70% to 80% of the communication that’s going on in our workplaces (maybe even yours) is irrelevant, annoying, cover the butt-ish, or just plan blah-blah-blah.

So how do you send and receive communication that is important enough to take time and attention? It takes focus and discipline. Even once you cut through the noise, you might still have too much communication going on to “do your job” as a leader (which ironically is accomplished through effective communication!). What this means is that the things you really need to do to communicate at your best just aren’t happening.

You need to find ways to do the things that will help you to communicate meaningfully, effectively, and with clarity. If your organization is running amuck with communication without a meaningful purpose, take a step back.

So here are some thoughts about how you can get a higher rate of return on your efforts than responding to the blah-blah-blah that’s continually calling for your attention:

Sleep/rest/get away/get unplugged: When you feel rested and balanced, you will communicate better. I guarantee it. Get the sleep and rest (whatever “rest” means to you) that you need; get away on that vacation you’ve been longing for. Declare unplugged, no-noise times without your cell phone/tablet/computer (how about weekends or an evening a week?) and focus on your hobbies, friends, and family. Trust me, your work world won’t fall apart and your brain gets a rest, allowing you to get back to communicating with ease and focus.

Think: Spending intentional quiet time in thought isn’t easy for many who are used to action. For some of us, it helps to structure our thinking time – what is it you want to think about? Start with a question, (“What will it take for my organization to become world class in what we do?” or “What will it take for me to communicate and lead at my best?”) and then reflect on it. Capture your responses to refine and act on later.

Strategize: I always thought it was odd that we put together massive strategic planning documents for what needs to be accomplished, but communication is rarely a part of that (which might explain why so many strategic plans rarely become reality). How about a strategy for communication in and outside of your organization? How do you as the leader want to be communicated with? How will you communicate to others? What boundaries do you want others in your organization to follow when they communicate with you and each other? Work with your team to refine your communication strategies so everyone agrees to the plan.

Are you too busy to really communicate? Take a step back to rest, reflect and strategize on how you can cut back on the noise in your organization in order to focus communication on what’s really important.


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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