Effective communication in America.
Sandra Smart, Business Intelligence from AirBridgeCargo Airlines, our colleague from America, answered some questions about business in America.
Do you want to work effectively with American partners? Read now.
What is special about business communications in America?
From an ABC perspective, the team in the USA has an open & honest communication style. Information is shared on an ongoing basis from VP level throughout the team AND all are invited to share thoughts, suggestions and ask questions going back up to VP level.
Humour is often used in both written and verbal communication and this helps to create the bonds of comradery within the team.
Listening and hearing are also critical parts of the communication process in the region.
From a general perspective in America, businesses use communication as an engagement tool with their teams. Key/critical/new information can be packaged in such a way as to inspire them, i.e. town hall meetings, team building events, etc. Organizations also use multiple channels, particularly APPS, to communicate with their organizations.
For external communication, organizations are skilled at creating “big message” events, i.e. Apple’s product launches to engage employees further PLUS customers, shareholders, stakeholders, the media etc.
What are the secrets/ tips for effective communication
with colleagues and business partners?
There are several things (and likely more) to consider when communicating with colleagues and business partners:
It’s key to be clear on the intention of the communication. What is the desired outcome the communication? Is it for sharing information? Or asking for information? Or other reason? Being clear on what that intention is allows an effective communication piece (or plan) to be created.
Creating the communication message (or plan) then needs to consider:
- What is being communicated? What is the key message that needs to be communicated? (no more than 3 seems to be best)
- What is the context for the communication? i.e. change in the business, new customer, new product, new routes, new processes, updates, etc.
- Why? & why is this important?
- What does the target audience (see below) need to know? – often times too much is shared which may dilute the message
- Is there a call to action? What does that look like, what are the timelines, who needs to be involved, etc.
There is the potential to have diverse target audiences for the same communication and may mean that different styles & channels (see below) need to be used
Who is the target audience? Internal or external? Board level, senior management, middle management, warehouse floor, customer, supplier, etc.
- The audience type will drive how the content is crafted – formal, informal, business language, simpler language, etc.
It is key to understand there are different communication styles and this applies equally to the person delivering the message & the person receiving the message.
For an organization – 3 of the several types of communication styles are:
- Auditory – some people prefer to hear the communication
- Data/Information – some people prefer to read the detail of the communication
- Visual – some people prefer to see the communication (i.e. presented with pictures, graphics, etc.)
When delivering a message, understanding there are different styles enables more effective delivery of the communication
When developing a communication message/plan, consider using multiple channels to reach all audiences (and communication styles) where possible & practical:
- Email – easy to deliver to large groups & external customers
- Briefings – as a follow up and support of written communication
- Telephone – as a follow up to email for 1:2:1 communication
- Keeping things simple – what I call “short, sharp & snappy”.
- Limit the # of messages that are being communicated & use bullet points to highlight to highlight key takeaway messages.
- Use simple language which is clear and easy to understand.
- Provide a feedback mechanism (questions? Comments?) and/or a call to action.
Some common mistakes people from other cultures can
Many cultures often use their unique local slang when communicating with people from other cultures. While this is a natural thing to do, when speaking with people from other cultures it’s good to double check their understanding simple by asking them. It’s also possible to pick up clues from body language – is the person looking confused? Do they look tense? There’s nothing wrong with double checking.
Using direct/literal translations in written communication can be a challenge for readers.
I’m so impressed that other cultures are able to speak English so well and yet here in North America we’re limited. The challenge arises when English is not a person’s first language and a written communication is needed in English. While there is nothing wrong with direct/literal translation, there may be benefits to having that literal English translation version updated to reflect the more usual way English is written. This demonstrates sensitivity to the receiver of the communication.