by Jeremy Lesniak
We have a saying at Vermont Computing: “It’s always a communication problem.” With over 10 years in the driver’s seat of a tech firm, I’ve found that communication issues are the root of most problems. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an internal (staff, human resources) or external (customer, vendor) problem, it nearly always comes down to someone’s communication failure. Communication involves both the sender and receiver—and there’s a responsibility on both ends. Effective management is primarily about effective communication.
Technology can be used for many things, but it can’t be used for hands-off management. While some may dream of managing from their e-mail, that’s not going to happen, at least, not with any sort of effectiveness. Technology can be used to make management easier and more comprehensive. Even if you don’t operate a business or manage people, these tools and tips can greatly improve your communication with friends and family.
Shared Online Storage: There are dozens of products that synchronize, back up and share your information. Dropbox is the leader, but there are alternatives. Having a central folder for your team to work in is invaluable. We use Dropbox at anewdomain.net quite often to organize our workflow. It’s also the preferred method at Vermont Computing for sharing, storing, organizing and backing up documents.
Shared Online Documents: Whether it’s Google Drive, Microsoft Office 365 or something else, having your team’s documents online is beneficial. I share a lot of spreadsheets—giving full access to those that need to change the data and read-only access to those that simply need to view. This method keeps everyone informed without risking corruption from an overzealous editor. Better still, everyone knows what’s going on without sending (even more)
e-mail. I’m also a fan of using shared spreadsheets as task lists.
Internal Website: Having a place to list information is vital. It might be Microsoft’s SharePoint or an alternative. Again, you could e-mail this sort of stuff to your team, but that requires them to manage the information. You might benefit from a team calendar or links to new policies or procedures. This is usually best as some sort of website. You could code something yourself if you wanted, serving it up on a local web server or even host it publicly and protect it with a password. Lots of options, but the key is to figure out what sort of information you need to post, how often it will change and who needs to read and change it.
Communicate Adequately: We live in an era of rapid, often overly efficient, communication. E-mail, texts and tweets are great, but they may leave the need for interpretation. Communication is a two-way street, and it’s up to you to be sure that your audience receives your communications as you intend them. That’s why voice calls, or better yet, video calls should be used when you can’t sit down with someone in person. It is far less likely that a staff member will misunderstand, forget or ignore your requests when you deliver them over a Skype video call instead of via e-mail. E-mails are too easy to miss (sometimes intentionally). Don’t forget all of that nuance that you can pick up from someone’s voice or facial expressions—nuance that may help you anticipate and avoid a problem.
Set Expectations: The key to effective management is communicating your expectations to your staff, making sure they understand and buy into them and holding them accountable. Technical solutions, like those above, can be effective at each stage, but they’re not the only way. There are situations where a phone call or face-to-face communication are better. Don’t allow yourself to hide behind technology, as that’s only going to cause unrest in your group.
Jeremy Lesniak founded Vermont Computing (vermontcomputing.com) in 2001 after graduating from Clark University and opened a store on Merchants Row (Randolph) in May of 2003. He also serves as managing editor for anewdomain.net. He resides in Moretown.