Blog Assignment: Communicating Effectively

Posted: January 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

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Can you hear me now, Spock?  For our EDUC 6145 Project Management course assignment this week we observed the effectiveness of a message that was presented using three different modes of communication — Email, Voicemail, and Face-to-face (presented as a video simulation).  For the project manager, indeed all team members, communication is the key to success (Portny et al., 2008).  As Dr. Stolovich states, the project manager must approach communications with diplomacy because “communication is not just words” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  How you say something is more important than the words you use!  In fact, 93% of how a communication is received is related to the following influences (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010):

  •      Spirit & Attitude
  •      Tonality & Body Language
  •      Timing
  •      The personality of the recipient

Choosing how and when to communicate can “influence one another’s attitudes, behaviors, and understandings” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 357).  Communication may be formal, informal, written, audio, face-to-face, individually, or in groups (meetings) (Portny et al., 2008), but important information should be shared in a live format “with all team members present” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  When communication is focused, clear, and concise it helps team members “stay on target” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  Perhaps the poor bloke below could have benefited from the physicians having more effective communications!

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On to our experiment!  As I stated in the intro, we observed a multimedia presentation which included the communication of the same message via email, voicemail, and simulated face-to-face video.  My notes of the observation of each are documented below.  I will begin with the medium that seemed most effective and end with that which seemed least effective.  The basic message is from Jane who is in need of a report from a team member, Mark who has missed his deadline.  Jane’s ability to successfully complete her work is dependent upon receiving Mark’s report/data or she will fail to meet her own deadline.

Face-to-face

In the face-to-face example, Jane seemed very effective in communicating her message.  Her demeanor was casual, calm and relaxed and she was clear about what she needed and the degree of importance, while maintaining great eye contact and a friendly smile.  She was personable and respectful, and even acknowledged Mark’s busy schedule which was a great way to approach him without pointing fingers and playing the blame game.  In addition the tone of her voice was pleasant  and non-threatening.  All of these factors can have an effect on the way a message is received and  can influence the degree to which the recipient is persuaded to respond appropriately to the request.  Assuming that Mark is a reasonable person and a professional, conscientious employee, I suspect that he likely responded quickly to provide Jane with the information that she needed.  Heck, he may even have apologized for holding up her work.

Voicemail

I found the voicemail message to be a little bit annoying.  Jane’s tone of voice seemed a little whiny and demanding and I heard a sense of urgency, perhaps because she spoke rather quickly (to my ear).  Although the script of the voicemail was almost identical to the face-to-face script, I perceived less emphasis on the lines that acknowledged how busy Mark had been and more on what Jane needed, and the fact that she needed it right away.  The message was still clear however.

Email

Oy vay.  Email is often such an inferior mode of communication, due to the lack of cues related to body language, tone of voice, cadence, emphasis, etc., leaving much of the interpretation of the message up to the recipient.  Emails sometimes seem so utilitarian and stark, which may be beneficial for simple, factual information that must be shared.  But beyond that, communication by email is not as effective as more personal modalities.  Email does not provide a realiable touchy-feely, human contact component.  Also, the lack of vocal tone and physical cues that are present in face-to-face, and to a lesser degree voicemail, can affect the clarity of the message.  I found that I had to read this message closely a couple of times just to be clear on what was being asked.  I suspect that Mark may or may not respond to Jane’s request in a timely manner, perhaps as a result of the lack of personal contact.  In this way,  emails may be less persuasive than other, more personal, forms of communicating.  Plus, how many times have you misinterpreted the tone of voice of an email, or had someone misinterpret yours?  Risky business, this email stuff.

Finally…

A topic that I did not see discussed as a part of our curriculum this week, and one that I personally value, is the use of humor.  According to an article about humor as a communication skill, author Janelle Gilbert stated that, “The clever and appropriate use of humor is a great way to improve communication, reduce stress, help people think creatively, reduce the fear of making mistakes, improve morale, build stronger relationships, alleviate boredom…and more!” (2012, July 13).  When used well, humor can put people at ease and give them a spike of feel-good hormones which may make them easier to work with, so having great funny-skills is a bonus!

Enter— Savage Chickens!

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References

Gilbert, J. (2012, July 13). Great communication skills: Do’s and don’ts of using humor at work. [Blog entry]. Retrieved January 23, 2014 from http://www.cgwa.com/2012/07/13/great-communication-skills-dos-and-donts-of-using-humor-at-work/

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Communicating with stakeholders. [Video webcast].

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E.
(2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken,
NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Comments
  1. Johnf432 says:

    I really appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thx again! gedaddgdkfec

    • Thank you, Johnf! I’m glad you like it! What was it about the post that compelled you to search for it? Is it a post you have read before and were just trying to find it again? Or were you searching a general topic and my blog popped up as a search result? How was it helpful to you?

      Lorena~

  2. bebedezign says:

    Hi Lorena,
    I’m starting to think you are a trekkie. Oh! I too appreciate how you use Dr. Stolovitch communication approach that communication must be diplomatic, and what is conveyed and interpreted through communication is so much more than just words… spirit, attitude, tone, body language and most importantly timing….{I say that because if someone is having just one of those days… no matter how a message is communicated the interpretation can become all twisted and miss communicated in the receiver emotions}. I liked your Savage Chicken message image because that can be real talk to for some instances when attempting to communicate with difficult people , Troy Achong spoke briefly about discusses strategies for dealing with different stakeholder personalities.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Bridget

  3. I truly love your graphics! You did a great job of answering all of the questions and providing pertinent information on communication. It is truly important for PM to communication effectively with team members. Keep up the great work!

  4. Sandra Crawford says:

    Hi Lorena,

    You have used humor very effectively in this post to communicate. It works!

    Like you, I too believe face to face communication is usually most effective. However; in today’s world sometimes project teams are scattered across the globe and cannot simply walk across to anther cubicle to communicate with a team member. In this case e-mail messages will have to be carefully crafted to convey the correct tone.

    There are some instances when I actually prefer e-mail messages. They are good to confirm what was said at a meeting and are also a great way to communicate with many people at once. I must confess to also using e-mail to avoid some folks who may have tendency to digress and go on and on when they have a physically captive audience.

    I try to avoid voice mail. Like e-mail there is no way of telling when the recipient has received it and, even with modern technology, sometimes they get lost. Unlike e-mail, you can’t create rules to direct specific messages to folders where they will be easily recognized.

    As a fellow Trekkie I guess you can imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when we may be able to send messages via three dimensional projected images of ourselves with body language, tone and all intact.

    Live long and prosper.

    • Thank you, Sandra…your reply made me laugh! 🙂
      I suppose every communication mode has aspects of give and take, and in each moment we make a decision about what we may be willing to give up compared to what we may gain by selecting a particular mode for that message, right? I have also selected to email someone when I knew that a phone call or face-to-face contact might pose one type of challenge or another. Great point!

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