There are people who claim to be natural communicators and there are those who struggle to get their point across. Most client teams have a mixture of the gifted and the frustrated – the natural order of things some might say. But this mix of skills in the workplace can lead to basic communication problems that disrupt progress. What we need is a framework to help train teams to communicate effectively.

At work, we have a chocolate box paradox of communications – so many choices but not enough guidance or understanding of how to select. Is it the orange crème or the caramel? Face-to-face conversation or email? The wrong choice can lead to difficulties – lukewarm relationships, misunderstandings, an inability to communicate bad news properly..

How do we get to grips with these choices? We should start with the dimensions of communication:

5 communication dimensions

Communities and organisations have long grappled with finding the best combination of dimension variables. The (relatively) recent proliferation of communication media has not only increased the choice, but upset previously understood frameworks for effective and successful communication. How many of us complain about not getting enough email? How has Instant Messenger impacted your culture? How many orders have you given via text message?

Training to choose

We have a myriad of choices – but we must understand how to choose the communication medium that best suits our objectives and the objectives of the business. And on to the useful bit: here’s a guide to structuring the core of a training course in selecting the right communication medium for the task at hand. Many of the world's most successful companies run these courses for their employees – so its not puffery – it sits at the heart of their commitment to quality:

  1. Ask your team to identify all the communication media available to them – the variety may well surprise once they are written down
  2. Ask them to identify what factors influence their choice of media – they know when they think about it!
  3. Ask them to work out how each factor influences their choice – a good topic for a lively debate, especially for email addicts
  4. Split them into groups and ask each group to produce a list of half a dozen different reasons to communicate at work. Swap group lists and ask each group to propose a suitable communication medium for each instance – especially interesting when groups coincide with the internal customer - supplier functions, or reporting lines
  5. Ask them to record their findings and formalise recommendations. Photocopy the result, staple or bind, and distribute as the basis for their take home training notes – more relevant to them than some prescribed infliction!

If you are the training owner or facilitator, you can use the following diagram, “The way to say what you have to say”, as a guide or prompt.

The way to say what you have to say

No more hiding behind email..

For people afraid to pick up the 'phone, for those who are blunt on email and blunt their relationships as a result. For those of us who are confrontational or passive, those with confidence and without. Don't underestimate the importance of communication – set guidelines, train your people and measure the results.