Tin CansWhen someone says "communications skills," two things come to mind. One is the actual skill of communication, the other is the communication plan for a project. While it's important to develop a plan and execute it correctly, how you communicate with others helps drive the relationships that you build with your colleagues and your project teams. Technology is great. It's all around us, though I'll admit I don't like it in my daily life. I rarely use email or instant messaging as my first line of communication. I find more personal approaches are more effective. So, I've set up some guidelines on how I communicate, and I've found them to be consistently helpful.
  1. If your team is local, get up and walk over to them to discuss any issues. I've found that it's a much easier way to build relationships and trust with anyone you want to work with. But remember: If you make a decision during that conversation, document it with an email to ensure that everyone heard the same thing.
  2. If a team member isn't local, pick up the phone. The same thought as #1 applies here. Making a personal effort goes a long way -- a lot further than email or IM. If they don't pick up the phone, you can leave a message (or not). After a few tries, you can always try your next option - email.
  3. Email is a fantastic tool, but it's flat. Whether or not your email is packed with information -- straightforward or not -- it can be interpreted in a way that might be drastically different from what you meant to say. So before you send an email, challenge yourself to make sure the communication is as effective as possible. Always remember that once you send it, your message will live forever. Choose your words carefully and if it's a tough topic, you might want to wait until you can handle it in a more personal way.