Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Take That Message!

I arrived in the office yesterday morning to the following message on my desk: “Company X cancelled Project B. Thanks.” What a bad way to start the day. Turns out, it was not even true. Company X had simply called to move the start date of Project B and wanted some information about how to change the contract. Now, I could say no one is to blame for this poor communication or for Company X wanting to change something. Or I could assume it was a simple mistake. I am a bit more demanding. I prefer to look at the bigger picture on what types of communication I should accept and, in fact, demand, of those who communicate with me.

Executives and business owners are juggling many balls every day. In truth, we do not have time for mistaken or upsetting communication. It drags down our morale and wastes precious time to clarify the situation. Stacked up over many instances, it cripples our businesses. What if we only accepted certain types of communication? What if we demanded people communicate with us in better, more concise, more positive ways? It’s a new view on time management.

Here’s the idea. Only accept communications that provide a) valid information, b) requests for authorization of well thought-out proposals, c) confirmation that something got done, or d) great news.

Next, go even further and reject communications that a) demand you make a decision about some issue that you know very little about, b) give reasons why something cannot be accomplished, or c) relay bad news.

Try to imagine your day free of those negative communications. Sound idyllic? While it might take a little work and a little re-training of your contacts, it can be done.

Here are the four simple steps to implement this plan in your office:

1. Inform those with whom you communicate most frequently of your new “Good News and Information Only” Policy. Use the paragraph above to show them the types of communications you expect and give them short examples.

2. If you get an illegal communication like the one in my example at the beginning of the article, send it back with a short, polite note to the writer. Example, “Sue, thank you for this note. I am unclear what happened here. Please rewrite this message explaining exactly what happened and a possible solution. I appreciate it!”

3. Watch your mood improve. You are in control and your office is already more positive.

4. Share this plan with other executives and business owners who can also improve their situations.

I look forward to hearing your good news as you implement this time-saving, mood-saving plan.

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