Tuesday, June 6, 2017

First, Factual, Frequent: 3Fs = A in Communication

By far any area that consistently receives a "needs improvement" from faculty and staff on a survey is the area of communication.  Recently, we conducted a survey on campus about "competencies" around student success initiatives.  After the survey we conducted a data dive activity that had faculty and staff analyze the results and assess the institution's strengths and opportunities as indicated from the survey.  During the report out session about the data, almost every spokes person referenced communication in one form or another.  Some reported that departments needed to communication better with other departments.  Some reported that administrators needed to communication more frequently with employees.  Some reported the institution needed to communicate better with students.  Without a doubt the common theme was communication.

Improving communication is something I have pondered frequently as a leader.  Certainly based upon the results of the activity referenced above I can safely conclude we haven't figured it all out yet. However, there is one principle about communication that I have developed and applied that has improved communication.  That principle is to communicate first, factually, and frequently about an important issue or topic.  Lets examine each of the three elements of this principle.

First:  Communicate the news to the appropriate people before anyone else does.  I think of this as the concentric circle model.  Communicate the news to the most effected person or unit first, then the next effected unit and so on before you release the information to the public or to the news.  Be sure to communicate to your supervisor before anything goes public as well.

Factually:  Your communication should be fact based.  Without opinions or defending the information.  Just be factual.

Frequently:  You may need to repeat your communication several times in several different mediums. You may also need to anticipate repeating the information in frequent intervals and in frequent mediums.  Not everyone is paying attention to things happening on campus.  Also, different audiences are on campus at different times and days.  The more critical or difficult the information the more frequent you may have to repeat the information.

The last principle I believe is helpful in communicating is to "correct the record".  Information is not always heard or understood the same way it is communicated.  Consequently, you may need to correct the information from time to time as people may not hear or remember the information as accurately as you need.

Remember, that communication is an important element of an organization.  That is why everyone is focused upon it and wants it to improve no matter how good it may be.

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