Back to Basics

I’m lucky enough to see my family just about every week. My mom and I often get together to catch up and share stories.  I like hearing about the interesting work she’s doing with her clients, and she’s a great sounding board for my professional life. Just yesterday, I was talking with her about a communication issue I’m facing these days. After listening to my situation, she gave me a good piece of advice – It’s time to get back to some communications basics.  I share my situation with the hope that you, too, can make some adjustments in your everyday communications.

Lane (Pearce) Pierce, daughter of Deborah Pearce, is a learning and development professional at Kohl's Department Stores.

In my line of work, I am with people all the time.  I facilitate classes, deliver presentations in front of groups, meet regularly with a diversity of departments, and spend much of my day in conversation with my teammates.  I pride myself on being a strong communicator, and for the most part, feel comfortable in all these settings.  There is one mode of communication, though, that I’m finding uncomfortable: The group conference call.  When participating on calls, I often feel like I’m fishing for comments or accidentally interrupting others.  The rhythm and flow of conversation can feel “off”. After discussing this with my mom, she helped me see that a few ground rules could make a big difference.

Ground rules are expectations that are shared – and agreed upon – when participating in group communication. Here are some ground rules I plan on sharing with my working group given our conference call goals:

1. Please give your full attention to the conversation
2. One person will be appointed facilitator and will lead the group through agenda items
3. When posing an open-ended question to the group, please invite one person to start the ball rolling:  ”George, why don’t we start with your thoughts.”
4. Facilitator will pause in between topics to ask, “Any questions/thoughts before we move on?”

For me, I see room for improvement across the phone lines.  Maybe for you, ground rules could help you manage other group communication methods like team meetings, project updates, or email.  Think about what could make your communication more effective, and consider sharing some guidelines with the group.

I’ll let you know how my next conference call goes!

This entry was posted in Interpersonal Communication, Verbal Flashcards. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Back to Basics

  1. Good luck, Lane! I’m thinking about how I use guiding principles, or ground
    rules, when working with groups. Here are some additional examples that
    have served me well:

    - Choose to participate – as both a speaker and as an active listener
    - Be respectful of “talk time” so everyone has a chance to contribute
    - Avoid side conversations that can be distracting
    - Please avoid using blackberries, laptops, cell phones, etc. during the
    conversation
    - Honor confidentiality

    Sometimes I will establish the ground rules and ask for the participants’
    commitment. Sometimes I invite the group to design their principles for our time
    together. Either way, it’s helpful to get everyone on the same page.

  2. John Pearce says:

    Lane, I understand how difficult conference calls can be, especially large audience calls. Here are some other guidelines that may be helpful:
    – the larger the call, the greater the liklihood for attendees to mute the call while multi-tasking. Ask your audience to avoid muting and to engage with contributions.
    – Conversely sometimes muting is a courtesy when calling into a meeting from a cell phone in loud settings like airports. Don’t hesitate to lead the meeting by leading the caller to show more courtesy.
    – The most productive conference call meetings I attend often conclude with the meeting leader volunteering to recap meeting action with summary emails complete with assignments and action steps.

    I hope these additional comments added to your discussion.

  3. Larry Spilker says:

    Recap at the end by the leader/facillitator. Since we can’t control those who choose to mute and multitasks. Very good additional point on conference calls.

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