We are bombarded with email, video chats, webinars, conference calls, social media, in-person meetings, trainings, retreats, conferences and more. With all of these communication methods, it is easy to become overwhelmed – and to overwhelm others. When working in teams, nonprofits and coalitions, we face two big challenges. 1. How do we stand out so that our overwhelmed partners don’t ignore our communication and 2. How do we figure out a way not not be so overwhelmed ourselves that we miss important communication opportunities?
I don’t know about you, but I have a “love/hate” relationship with email. I’m thankful that I can communicate with others so easily and receive important information; however, I can also be completely overwhelmed and miss the truly important because of all of the “noise.” I find it particularly frustrating when people keep sending me multiple emails about the same topic (this is particularly true for those trying to sell me something). I guess folks assume that everyone is overwhelmed by email and they won’t see it, but personally, it makes me want to delete everything! The same can be true for meetings, especially “standing” meetings that remain on our calendars even if there is no clear agenda or purpose for the meeting. We need to be aware of our communication approach and how it impacts our partners and colleagues!
Here are 3 recommendations that focus on addressing the first challenge “How do we stand out so that our overwhelmed partners don’t ignore our communication?”.
- Prioritize. In order to meet the needs of your partners, team members and coalition partners, ask them their communication preferences. Find out their preferred communication method, frequency and expectations. When you do communicate with them, keep it brief and focused. If you send an email, focus 1-3 things (and use bullets!).
- Plan. Consider what you want to accomplish and spread it out over time. You may want to use a communication plan similar to what I shared a few weeks ago. Consider “mapping” out each month and leave room for some unexpected communication needs. Also, remember that when working in teams and workgroups, it will likely take longer than you think it will to implement interventions, develop products, etc. Recently, I heard someone suggest that you develop your estimated timeline and multiply it by 3 or by 5! I encourage you to think about your past experiences and let that help guide your planning. For many nonprofits and coalitions, our team members and workgroups members are volunteers. We cannot expect our volunteers to be able to devote the same time and effort as paid staff. And remember, they are likely overwhelmed, so be sure to prioritize.
- Protect. Honor your teams, workgroups and the plans that you have collectively developed. Protect their time and the communication plan you developed. Be leery of including an “extra” request that doesn’t align with what you were already doing. Protect your own calendar so that you can fulfill and follow-through with what you have committed to your team or workgroup. One of my favorite and accurate responses from Michael Hyatt is “In order to fulfill my existing commitments, I am unable to….” This is so true! And when you protect and honor the communication and other commitments, you build trust and stand out among the “noise”!
Next week we will focus on the second challenge. How do we figure out a way not not be so overwhelmed ourselves that we miss important communication opportunities?
I encourage you to try one or more of these this week! Let me know what works for you as well as other ideas you may have to “stand out” to that your overwhelmed partners don’t ignore you! 🙂
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