Cornwall & The Counties Community Futures Development Corporation
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Business Communication & Productivity Tips

Thursday August 13th, 2015

With the broad array of articles and self-help books available to us today, it may hardly seem necessary for the C&C CFDC to contribute to the existing fanfare around effective business communication and productivity.

Truth of the matter though, is that much of today’s writings are geared to already successful people who are rulers of their work domains or alternatively on their way to attaining that status. Recognizing that many folks are interested in tips that help them move up the corporate ladder or succeed in their businesses, we know also that many people are at the embryonic stage – looking to mobilize their business or simply interested in identifying ways that help them be more effective in performing the work before them. This article is for these people.

Whether in the form of enhanced clarity and purpose, improved outcome, or time saving, we know that businesses are interested in establishing simple business practices that yield attractive payoffs.

Simply stated, we all generally want to better manage our time. And in few instances is it more necessary than when we are starting or growing our businesses. Because the Cornwall & The Counties Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) encounters so many business people and witnesses some of the reasons for their success, we observe the that those who anticipate circumstances and adopt techniques such as those that follow will, all other things being equal, be advantaged in their overall performance.

  1. Use the Telephone
  2. As foreign as this may have become for some of us, most of us probably concede that face-to-face interactions and speaking over the telephone lead to better outcomes – at least when building (versus maintaining) relationships. In short, an actual conversation will typically cut to the chase; particularly in instances where a matter is complex or multi-faceted. Moreover, an actual conversation more quickly establishes familiarity and impresses on the parties the importance and transparency of their exchange. If we think about it on an anecdotal level, would a greenhouse operation rather learn by way of e-mail at 7:00 in the evening (that may or may not be read in sufficient time) that water service will be disrupted the following day or would we prefer the certainty of an actual conversation which encourages exchange? At the same time, the message can be better managed, avoiding ‘tone’ misunderstanding that all of us have possibly experienced, or even innocently instigated.

  3. Don’t Substitute e-mail for your own Thinking
  4. In business, we can all be guilty of it – pouring out long streams of justification and logic in support of our actual message. Upon reflection, we probably know that the recipient doesn’t need to know everything we are thinking….and that frustration may even be introduced. Admittedly, it may sometimes be necessary, but the argument is made that we should keep to the essentials of the communication and process the ‘thinking’ beforehand. Should, like many of us, your best thinking come to you while crafting the message, save the e-mail and return to it later with a view to editing and getting back to the essentials as impartiality is reintroduced.

  5. Be Clear
  6. If your message or request isn’t made clear within the first couple of lines of your e-mail message, it’s often fair to assume that it will not be read or properly understood. Unless of an imperative relationship or dependency, an e-mail message void of clear action will more likely be set aside than a focused one. The same is also true of other forms of exchange.

  7. Save and Review Your e-mail Before Sending
  8. No matter how much effort may have been invested in crafting e-mail, it doesn’t mean that it must be sent immediately. Always take the time to proof it and to even reflect upon it reserving yourself the 10 count our parents talked about. Yes, that’s the practice of counting to 10 before doing or saying something we might regret or be embarrassed by. The “save” button is the way that we can invoke the 10-count rule when irritated by an originating e-mail or office incident. Going back to tip #2 above, come back to it later to ensure that it’s what you wish to say and the way in which you want to say it.

  9. Limit Emotion in Your Business Communications
  10. Every once in a while, an event that disturbs harmony will brew – with one part of the team or stakeholder environment displeased with another. While it does happen in all types of organizations and through different forms of communication, the trigger can frequently be traced back to an e-mail message that has been misinterpreted or negatively overstated. Most will guess correctly that the likelihood of misinterpretation in any form of exchange will grow exponentially with the introduction of undue emotion. Sarcasm, humour, and personal detachment from an issue simply don’t work in e-mail messages so it’s better to stick to the facts and to avoid excessive banter.

  11. Organize and Steward Effective Meetings
  12. Just because a software application may seem do default to scheduling meetings in one-hour intervals, it doesn’t mean that all meetings need to take an hour or be of hourly increments. Reserve only the time you deem needed and pre-communicate that time allocation to participants. Upon convening, it’s always good to begin the meeting by paraphrasing the purpose of the meeting and what is to be achieved by meeting’s end.

  13. Keep To-Do lists Separate From Meeting Notes
  14. Have you ever noticed that reminders and follow-up prompts embedded in meeting minutes or notes get overlooked? It’s quite simple to understand – they are hard to isolate within the session’s jumbled notes. Add the passage of time, and clarity is lost. When a to-do emerges, it should be recorded in its dedicated section; ideally with identity of designated delegate and any performance deadlines.

  15. Adopt an Effective Records Retention Approach
  16. If you’re not already doing so, consider implementing a folder system for filing e-mail messages and documents by client or subject matter, rather than by date…or worst, not at all. We’ve likely all been there at least once – baffled when asked for information, trying to exhume some golden nugget germane to the discussion of the moment.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders are typically blessed with an abundance of creativity, inspiration, and ingenuity. As a group, they do however tend to struggle with time management and routine. And while innate creative talent cannot be bestowed or taught, the good news is that time management can be. With a bit of organization and discipline, business people can, relying on the above tips along with others learned along the way, improve both their outcomes and their lives. Starting gradually, these techniques can be employed and perfected so as to optimize overall performance. And remember to always say what you mean, and mean what you say!

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