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Communicate Consistently

Every job description I have ever seen – and ever applied for – has said something like “strong communication skills.”  This goes right along with “highly organized,” and while we all recognize that communication skills are important, when do we talk about the specific, practical things we need to do to communicate well? Over the next four weeks, we are going to focus on some specific communication skills that will help us engage with our partnerships and teams in a positive and productive way.

I’ve been formally leading coalitions, partnerships and teams for more than 15 years. Several months ago, I had some partners asking me (and mostly my colleagues who were thankfully honest with me) “Whatever happened to the Lung Cancer Network?”  “We haven’t met all year.” “Does it still exist?” “When is the next meeting?” And although I know that consistent communication is important, I had become SO busy with small-group projects and deadlines that I hadn’t stopped to consider that I had forgotten to communicate and convene the larger group.  I also hadn’t told them why we hadn’t met.  I kept hearing about how busy everyone was and let that narrative dictate my lack of communication. This was NOT a good idea when leading a team or network!  Here are 3 things I did to reconnect the group and that serve as a great example and a reminder of the importance of consistent communication.

  1. Communicated honestly via email: I sent the entire Network an email letting them know that it had been way too long since we had met and that I was going to be convening them very soon. I was honest that I had gotten too busy with projects but also that the work of the Network was important and needed to be a priority for me.  I was humble and also took action.
  2. Scheduled a meeting. I compared calendars with a few key people on our leadership team and those who had been asking the most questions about meeting and scheduled our next meeting.  Although it ended up being scheduled at a time when several overall members were on vacation, I knew it was essential for us to move forward with meeting and then follow-up with action items and opportunities for them to be engaged again in the future.
  3. Conducted an electronic survey. Right after the meeting (it was via webinar), I sent them a very brief electronic survey related to meeting preferences. I wanted to demonstrate that I was serious about finding a way to be more consistent in communication and in convening. There were only five questions and they had an option to provide comments. They were simple questions about best day of the week to meet, time of day, type of meeting and meeting frequency. I used these results to schedule subsequent meetings that would create opportunities for communicating with one another.

In order to continue the consistent communication, I also recommend developing – or re-visiting a communication plan and strategy. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Stay tuned for future posts on what you might include in a communication plan.

So what about you?  What have you learned about consistent communication (or lack of it) in your team or coalition?

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