The Importance of Communication

Tax season is finally over and now myself and my fellow colleagues can get back to living again.  For me, it usually takes me a few weeks to fully “recover” from the craziness though.  Luckily while this happens the second-best time of the year for professional sports is happening (#1 of course is the start of the NFL season).

Right now we have the NBA and NHL playoffs in full gear, the MLB season is under way, and the NFL draft is this Thursday.  Since the 76ers and Flyers didn’t make the playoffs, and the Phillies are sitting at .500, my focus is naturally focused on the Eagles and who they are taking with their first pick.  Last year all of the Eagles fans got a glimpse of what Carson Wentz has the potential to become (see the 1st four games) and we also saw the flip side (see pretty much the remainder of the season after that).  My opinion is that we have our quarterback of the future in place but we need to start putting the building blocks around him to make him successful in the long term.  We have already picked up two wide receivers to help him during free agency – Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith.  I feel we need more though.  As I learned from the Andy Reid era, games are won in the trenches. While this may not be the popular thing to say, my hope is that we draft offensive line help with our top pick.  Then hopefully we can beef up our defensive line after that.

This week I wanted to discuss a topic that was one of my main deficiencies for a good portion of my career – communication (being an accountant, I’m sure most of you aren’t surprised to hear this!).  I have personally worked extremely hard to communicate more efficiently and effectively, both in the written and verbal sense, over the past few years.  The reason I am bringing this up is because I want to discuss a few topics in this area that I have learned that I thought may benefit some of my readers:

Keep the Communication Flowing

The biggest thing I learned from working at larger firms is that the more people there are in a group, the more difficult communication becomes.  There are so many examples that I have of managers/partners telling a group the importance of communication.  Most conscientious people will take this directive and start running with it.  However, if communication isn’t stressed as a principle part of the culture of the firm, I can almost guarantee the employees will revert back to the norm in the near future.  From what I’ve seen, the larger group, the quicker the reversion.

So, what can you do about this?  One of the first CPA firms I worked for had weekly team meetings every Monday morning.  The meetings would start promptly at 8:30 AM so it wouldn’t interrupt the main part of the work day.  At these meeting, each employee discussed the current work on their plate and any client issues.  Once this concluded, client projects would be moved to different employees who had capacity to keep the work flow progressing.  The constant communication paid huge internal dividends.  From the time the meetings started through my last days at the firm, there was a sustained level of communication within our group which led to the best work environment I have ever been a part of as an employee.  In turn, this led to work product efficiencies and client happiness.

 

Maximize Your Team Efficiencies

Inefficiency drives me up a wall.  One of the biggest drivers is the lack of communication between key personnel.  I have so many stories from my employee days I could fill up 10 pages – partners would know something and not tell the manager, then the staff would complete a project.  The project would then go the manager and then to the partner.  The partner would say, “I forgot to mention XYZ, you will need to go back and change everything”.  From there the manager and staff would waste precious hours changing data that could have been taken care of up front.  I know it takes up precious time, but as soon as you know something important, pass it on immediately.  Not only will you maximize others’ time by decreasing re-work, it will also help with keeping internal frustrations to a minimum.

Deadlines

Ever hear of the phrase “over-promise but under-deliver”?  Unfortunately, this happens in a great deal of situations.  Employees want to please their boss or business owners want to please their client.  Then unrealistic deadlines are set and ultimately missed.  Then a “fluff” explanation or no and explanation at all is given.  Nothing can be more detrimental to your career or you business’s reputation than this in my opinion.

Things happen in life and I believe most people in this world get that.   If you know a deadline won’t be met for a good reason, be upfront about it and communicate the reasons well ahead of time.  As long as it doesn’t become the “norm” most people will understand and extend the deadline.

Succinctness

We live in such a fast-moving world that written communications need to be succinct to be effective. Over the course of my career I crafted what I thought were the most well written e-mails that were full of analysis and data.  I would send them to my managers or clients and felt so good about what I accomplished.

Of course, documenting what I wrote was important and necessary for the firm.  However, what I found was that the end user of the data either didn’t read it or read just the first few sentences.  How frustrating!

So how do you grab their full attention up front?  The best way I found to avoid this is to keep e-mails and text messages as succinct and to the point as possible.  Let the end user know in a few sentences what you need and why.  From there let him or her dictate the next steps about the communication.  At the end of the day, this will satisfy the end users’ needs and it will end up saving everyone time and frustration in the long-run.

Conclusion

Hopefully my experiences will help you in some aspects of your career moving forward.  What lessons have you learned over the years regarding communication?