Corporate Personalities and Channels of Communication

Waaaaaaaay back, like 200 years ago, there were only a couple of channels of communication: either face-to-face, or by letter. So if you ran or worked for a company, a boss communicated to you or a supervisor (the idea of “manager” would come later in the 20th century), and/or you had scriveners who copied important documents and transcribed important numbers and events. All manual. Tedious by our standards today due to it’s limited replication abilities and smaller audience reach. There was no meeting recording, and the pace was accordingly slow.

Add 50 years, and the new tools in the arsenal included a typewriter, carbon paper, telegraph, and possibly a telephone.

200 years ago…

By 1875, you could type a document—type copies of it—and telegraph information to someone across the country. You could actually have a sales force which didn’t reside at your corporate HQ. And by 1877, there were 49,000 phones in the US, and nearly 600,000 phones by 1900. If you’ve ever seen adoption curves for technology, its adoption only gets faster and faster. But for phones, when you think about the infrastructure which had to be installed to have a phone which actually connected to someone else, I believe its adoption rate tops all others, although the graphs don’t support it.

You may be asking, “Why all this history? What are you getting at?”

The point is, many things we take for granted, things like phones which we have incorporated into our lives and have no idea what it is or was like to not have a phone, have shaped our communications and our expectations for our communication. My children have never known what it’s like to not have wireless connectivity. Even worse, they have no idea the difference between cellular or wireless and simply expect to always be connected. The youngest is the worst about this.

For Instance, if you grew up in the 1970s, you probably had one phone in the house for the whole family. This meant you negotiated and shared—working with the members of your family to determine use. By the 2000s, a single landline is archaic and everyone has an individual number. Anymore, worrying about sharing the single landline phone never crosses anyone’s mind. (Recently, my son was on our home phone line and the person on the other end asked if he was on a landline—he had to pause to think about it.) With the prevalence of texting, now families communicate from room to room—no longer is it necessary to yell up the stairs, “Time for dinner!” For that matter, families which dine together are decreasing in number like landlines.

In the end, communication styles have changed. And companies have adopted particular communication paths based upon culture, legacy or mandate. But usually, it is a result of culture.

But this is where I ask you to pay attention as this is important: That culture determines how people inside and outside the company communicate. If a culture is a voicemail culture, then leaving voicemail which is succinct, on-topic and information rich will be much more important than “look at me” voicemail.

As an example, my wife worked for a law firm which segmented how it communicated by the virtue of the information being transmitted. If it was case related, it was in an e-mail. If it was business or day-to-day process related, it was voicemail. For example, if someone had research completed which was pertinent to a case, they put it in an e-mail. If an associate had an update as to where they stood on that research, they put it in a voicemail. (“Still going through documents on the Rictus case. Not smiling—could be several hours more.”)

What they frowned upon was cluttering the voicemail box with updates which didn’t add either. One intern loved to leave a voicemail to her managing partner showing how long and hard she worked: “Hi Jerry, it’s Erica. It’s 2:30AM and I’m just leaving for home. I’ll be back tomorrow morning to continue my 15 plus hours efforts to tease details from the Brownsnoser case.”

Jerry, not surprisingly, didn’t find these voicemails informative, but more annoying. There was no information pertinent to the case, and a simple knock on Jerry’s door, stopping by his office the next day would have sufficed. In the end, Erica brought more negative than positive attention on herself by leaving these pigeon droppings.

A large technology company used e-mail as it’s primary communication path at a time when e-mail was not really an adopted method across their industry. But here is where abuse crept in as well—people would record voicemails and send them via e-mail. And soon, the recipient’s inbox was full because of voicemail—not e-mail!

And, when communicating internally or externally, think about the what of your message. Data intensive? Use text. Emotionally sensitive? Use voice. And if the culture of the company with whom you’re communicating leans in the opposite direction of what you are sending, then leave them a  little memory jogger in their preferred medium. Long, emotional voicemail? Send an e-mail pointing the recipient in the direction of the voicemail (and saying no more than that). Important, data-filled e-mail? Leave a voicemail (or a text) which tells them to make sure they read your tome.

Last, make sure you use the different channels as they are intended. I (reluctantly) mentioned texting in the previous paragraph. Sometimes a text is just the ticket, but remember, just like e-mail, it is asynchronous communication (NOT real-time) and two, it is called Short Message Service (SMS) for a reason. The first rule in texting is don’t expect a response. Rule two is keep it short. If the texts get too long, switch to an appropriate mode of communication. Rule three, be aware the recipient’s physical location is unknown to you, so be sensitive to where your fellow texter could be. If you are blowing up their phone while they (or you) are in an important meeting, then back off. If the recipient is responding during same said meeting then shame on them.

So in the vein of Smart Sales Operations, why emphasize all these points? Because efficient communication is smart communication. Getting your message across is difficult in a world which has increasing amounts of static. Be clear. Be concise. Be EFFICIENT.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

Efficient E-mail Makes Everyone Efficient

If you are like me, you have a personal e-mail account in addition to your work e-mail. You may even have other e-mail addresses adding to those basic two you have to manage. When it comes to reading e-mail, keeping track of numerous different addresses has a fundamental problem: volume.

There has been a lot written about e-mail: etiquette, management, sending, receiving and bcc’ing. I’m not sayin’ what I’m sayin’ is original, but efficient e-mail came up in a conversation the other day, and I knew I had to tell my perspective…

First, the background. As I’ve mentioned before, I surprisingly have a lot of connections to hockey. I play hockey, my wife plays hockey, my son plays hockey and my daughter plays hockey. Only one child missed the hockey train, but since she is already out of the house and out of college, she is an outlier and gets removed from the data set. Because of all this hockey, I receive a lot of personal e-mail around scheduling. Scheduling for practices, workouts, games, meetings, films, etc. My youngest child, my daughter, happens to play for three different organizations, which means e-mail times three. In addition, one of the organizations she plays for has a house team and select team–the select team pulls players from the various house teams to form the select team. (Bear with me, I’m getting to my point). The coach of the select team has done us all a solid by coaching (if you have never coached hockey, it might just be the longest sport season of all the sports, starting in September and going until March–some claim longer than that).

The coach, while excellent and attentive, has one major flaw–he can’t write a succinct e-mail to save his life. Not only that, but within each tomes he types is vast and varied amounts of pertinent information. I mean A LOT of info. For instance, we had a tournament this past weekend in Pittsburgh. In one e-mail, the select coach listed 1) the dates 2) the times 3) the hotel information 4) the opposing team info 5) the organizing body info and more. It was three pages. It was dense. There were no bullet points. And, it was unusable from a smart phone because I forgot what I was reading by the time I scrolled down to the bottom with innumerable thumb swipes.

So I suggested to him, based upon my experience in business and coaching soccer, to get EFFICIENT.

What do I mean by efficient? Well…in marketing, they talk about “open rates” and “above the fold“. The first means did the recipient actually open my e-mail, and second, was the call to action within the first reading pane before the reader had to scroll down.

So there are two examples I’m going to use, and one shows this in action, and the other shows the chaos of reaction.

My sport growing up and through college was soccer. And then coaching soccer. And then coaching my children’s soccer teams. And in coaching soccer and communicating, I learned some lessons. In the beginning of the season, the first e-mail I sent was one big e-mail with all the pertinent info about where to find stuff, contact me, my assistant coach, schedules, venues, etc. And after that initial kitchen sink e-mail, then each week I sent basically one e-mail, and did it in a very specific way.

First, the subject line always spelled out exactly what this was about, e.g. “2016 Fall Soccer – Seniors – …” and I would fill in what it was concerned with, like “practice cancelled” or “game delayed”.

Why? Because it was incredibly easy to search for my e-mails when the Subject Line started this way, and the recipient could look at their smartphone and see in the subject line what the message was and to what it pertained.

Second, in the body of the message, the call to action came first, “Practice has moved to the adjacent field.”

Third came the detail. “Parents, we have been informed our senior boys are scaring the bejeezus out of the younger children as they leave the field so we are moving practice to an adjacent field.” It looked like this:

Subject: 2016 Fall Soccer – Seniors – Practice has moved to the adjacent field

Please start practice on Filbus field starting this afternoon.

Parents, we have been informed that our senior boys are scaring the bejeezus out of the younger children as they leave the field so we are moving practice to an adjacent field on Filbus Fields.

(555) 555-5555

The most important takeaway from this method is each e-mail addresses one (1) issue! Even if the parent or player doesn’t open the e-mail, they know what it’s about. And, it isn’t some directive without explanation, but I don’t give the explanation unless the reader continues reading.

Your mileage may vary, but I saw my rate of parent and player replies (which meant I would have to reply back) drop significantly once I implemented this. Communicating directives efficiently gave more time back to me.

Next, the chaotic business example, one around internal communication.

In most organizations, e-mails flow back-and-forth like a conversation. And when someone says, “Did you read my e-mail?” it comes off as a challenge, because of course you read their e-mail (right?). Then the conversation spirals downward to talk about time-stamps and swamped inboxes. So I’ll give you an example of something which happened to me where the use of efficiency would have eliminated a 100+ e-mail thread and two hour-long conference calls.

In a former company of mine, we were working to sell a training package to a company. I had outlined this to the training manager in an e-mail and he replied back, but included in the reply commentary and pricing on another deal we were working on. So, true to my beliefs, I created a separate e-mail thread addressing this new information and went back to handling the information I had requested for the initial client in a different thread.

Then, my colleague proceeded to reply to both e-mails the same, because he was trying to join the thread back together. I replied to him with separate e-mails because they were separate issues with separate customers. He called me on the phone to rant about my ineptness. I politely explained how he was talking about two different issues and they needed to be kept separate. He organized a call with my manager to complain and on the call my manager said, “You had a call to waste my time about e-mail?”

The result of this was a very soft and perfunctory reprimand from my manager (“Make sure Bob knows in advance before you split the e-mail into separate threads.”) and my realization how I needed to deal with Bob in the future–call him. It was more efficient than e-mailing him and convoluting the topic I wanted to cover and it was the best channel of communication to work with him. (A topic for another time.)

In summary, in business communications–not marketing–keeping e-mail threads simple and specific creates efficient conversations.

Oh, and the good news? My daughter’s hockey coach and took my advice. Now if he could just cut it back from two paragraphs to one.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at