Most jobs have a common thread of commonality: human interaction dependencies to be successful. I often find myself putting on the psychologist hat and deeply thinking about how to effectively work with others and communicate my thoughts and decisions. Two main elements that I have made me successful thus far in working with others are memory retention (in-put) and communication skills (out-put).
You may take courses on improving strategic skills, however ultimately it is a real-life exercise that needs to be executed regularly. During my graduate studies, I took a class on High Output Teams and Change Management and learned many theories on types of teams that exist in most workplaces and team decision making process. Through various exercises and case-studies, I was able to better identify my work surroundings and improve my skills. These acted as foundations for getting to know the core of my relationships with others and with myself. Diagrams below if you are not familiar:
I learned in order to be effective within my team and to effectively communicate my thoughts and decisions, I need to arm myself with better tools while keeping these theories on types of teams and decision making process in mind.
Remembering Small/Big Tasks and Communicating!
Once upon a very naive time, I praised myself on remembering all the little tasks I needed to complete while highly multi-tasking. I once had a sense of arrogance until…I entered higher positions, which increased the demands, which increased multi-tasking and which has reduced my memory retention. One of my pet-peeves is speaking to a fellow team-member or client and they forget our conversation or an action item, so I made sure to do my best to improve my tools. I thought, it is either I am not effectively communicating with them, or maybe they are not arming themselves with the tools to keep a note of action items. Teams all have dependencies. Reducing the time and effort on communication and re-iterating action items, makes everyone’s job easier.
During my meetings, I use Microsoft OneNote to take action-items and client notes. At the end or after a meeting (depending on how much time is remaining) with either my team or clients, I send a re-cap of the action items for my personal benefit of keeping record and for theirs so I can keep them accountable. Outside of sending e-mails or conversations on Microsoft Teams, I love to use OneNote to add a checklist of what I need to accomplish.
If a task is urgent, I block time in my Microsoft Outlook as a meeting invite so that I absolutely do not forget. I used to love using the classic notebook for meeting notes, but with the amount of meetings and clients I have, they all need shared extensive meeting minutes which means using a classic notebook is out to limit duplication. When I initially started working, I would write notes by hand then type them up which was quite tedious..Currently, I love using the notebook to brainstorm or outline ideas. You must find a way to store a checklist and keep it up. If you do this, you will stay ahead of everyone and they will also be impressed with how thorough and on-top of things you are.
Communication and team-work isn’t a way one way street. As consultants, our executives/partners visit our clients about once every few months to check in on progress of our work and ensure our relationship is on good terms. This helps to keep you and your team members in check and your leadership aware of the work you are doing. Once a project wraps up, I set up Lessons Learned sessions with my clients to ensure that during any next phase or future work, that we openly communicate on pros and cons of the work.
Within my team, I set up Retrospective sessions to discuss what went well during a time period of development, what didn’t go well, what can we do better and action items about twice a month. This is completely unanimous and usually executed through sticky note exercises. This is another example of a feedback process. Sometimes, what you think is working best for you may not be communicated well with others. So ensure you are spending time with your team and clients regularly to get feedback. Also, think about how your team is structured and how decisions are made because that can really set the tone of your work environment and ways you can communicate.
Just like a waiter at a restaurant, the busier they are and the bigger the menu, the harder it is to remember every order without writing it down immediately. Also, if there is an issue, if they do not communicate to customers, customers are dissatisfied and will leave the restaurant. If they do not communicate orders or needs with the kitchen, then again customers are not happy and the business will fall. Short-term memory can hold a few thoughts per minute and can be forgotten after a few seconds. Communication can be a downfall for anyone in any job. Take time to evaluate yourself first and those around you. Find ways to better your self so you can improve the environment that is around you.
This may sound like such simple skills, but to master it means get organized, follow up on items that need to be completed and communicate effectively. Let me know what you find effective in your work environment to keep track of your work and communicate with your team…