Fundamental #25: Share Information
The 30 Fundamentals that make up the “ConnectSMART Way” describe how we want to run our business – the way we treat our clients, the way we work with each other, and even the way we relate to our vendors and suppliers. They’re who we are and they’re the foundation of our success. They drive everything we do, every day. Each week we focus on a different fundamental and discuss in depth.
Fundamental #25: Share Information
Learn to ask yourself, “Who else needs to know this?” Be thoughtful about how and what you share to be as effective as possible. The goal is to give people the data necessary for good decision-making, rather than burdening them with unnecessary information. When in doubt, share more rather than less.
The amount of information available to us today is absolutely mind boggling. If we look at numbers from 2014 there are – 294 BILLION emails sent every day! – 6 BILLION Google Searches each day! – 3.5 BILLION Facebook messages posted daily! – 40 Million Tweets shared each day! That is a lot of data. And that is only my mailbox – ok, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it often feels that way. I looked at my email stats for last month. I had 7836 emails sent to me. Of those our spam filter removed 5770 (Thanks Reflexion), which left ‘only’ 2066 that I had to review. That is 94 emails per business day to process. If I actually read all of those emails it would take at least one hour per day just reading the emails, not to mention replying. The more information we have the less we actually grasp! This problem is at the core of the ConnectSMART business. Identifying and bringing attention to the relevant data. This is one fundamental that Dave and I discussed at great length. Sharing of information is so important. That is why for years I had my office next to Dave with the open door between our offices so we could overhear each other on things that we might not think to share. How do you find the balance between too much and too little information?
Our daily and weekly huddles in all of our departments if done properly help here a lot. “What did we do yesterday and what are we accomplishing today?” is designed for us to highlight the things that we came across that others need to know, not just an accounting of our time. If we spend a little time before each huddle to have our thoughts in order instead of rattling off the cuff what we remember will make each huddle more valuable in communicating relevant information. The problem with email is that it is so easy to share without any thought. The basis of information overload is having to sift through information that isn’t relevant to you. I’ve been struggling with this problem for a while. While I may not always respond to the snarky comments about not reading email, I do hear them! I think the biggest asset (and pain in the asset) is electronic communication. Both its greatest strength and weakness are in how easy it is. So how can we make it more effective?
I’ll start the discussion this week with a few tips. The first key I think is to ask yourself ‘who needs to know this?’. You all remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? You can do the same with your communications. If they are always irrelevant to the person they are being sent to it will stop being read. Use the “To:”, “CC:” and “BCC:” appropriately when sending to a group. If the addressee is in the “To:” field it requires action, “CC” and “BCC” are informational. If you need a response from multiple recipients don’t assume they know that. Specifically mention who you need a response back from. Break your email into paragraphs with the information needed from each person noted.
Make it clear! Add as much information into the subject line as you can to make it relevant to the person reading it. The subject line of “FWD: RE: RE: RE: FYI” is going to be at the bottom of my list to read! If you want a response ask for it! Jack is really good at doing this and I appreciate the informational emails he has sent me where he notes ‘No response needed”. I am not left to wonder if he wanted a reply or not. This is especially important on an email thread. Many times the content of the email no longer matches the subject line leading to confusion. If you are sending an informational email just add FYI (For your information) to the beginning. Time won’t be wasted trying to figure out if you need to read the whole email or not.
Don’t assume! How many times have you gotten an email that assumes you know the context? Taking a couple extra minutes to write down the context will save a lot of frustration and most likely a couple of extra emails getting clarification. I know that you aren’t supposed to use emoticons in an email, but remember that your tone of voice, and facial expressions don’t come through in an email. This is a hard one for me because of my personal sense of humor (at least that is what I call it). Remember that the person reading your email is only reading the words not your intent. At the same time, Assume Positive Intent (Fundamental #20)! How many time have people gotten worked up because of what they think someone is saying in an email. When in doubt, Ask.
Give as much information as possible! One of the biggest problems I face in emails is a reference to something else that I have to look up to be able to respond to. Don’t send someone an email asking them for feedback on Ticket #22345 – Send them the relevant information on that ticket that requires the response. Otherwise you are asking someone else to go do research that you should already have at your fingertips! Copy and paste is your friend. You are much more likely to get a clear and accurate response if you include all of the information in the email body. The same is true for a long thread. Restate what is important, don’t rely on someone to scroll through a 10 page email thread to deduce the relevant information.
Use the right medium! I think this is one of the more difficult ones. We tend to rely on email and sometimes hide behind email. I’ve had an unofficial 2 email rule in ConnectSMART. This is especially true when dealing with customers. If you have a back and forth twice with a customer via email and you don’t have a resolution you need to offer the option to have a conversation. Many times a five minute conversation can save you days of email back and forth. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and discuss. You can then summarize the conversation back in an email for tracking purposes. There are a lot of tools and other ways to share information that don’t include email. Again, think of your audience. What is the best way to communicate with them, not how is it easiest for you to communicate? This requires us to get outside of ourselves and our own comfort zones to think about the quality of information being communicated not the expediency.
Finally, don’t be afraid to over communicate. As the fundamental says “When in doubt, share more”. As long as you are following these tips to make sure it is effective and not causing the recipient unnecessary work to try to figure out the relevance you will never go wrong in over communicating. It is better to have more information than be missing a critical component.