Are you still playing the Telephone Game?

Remember the ‘Telephone Game’ that we played when we were kids?

You know, when you made a line and the person at the end of the line whispered a silly phrase to the next person and it got cascaded down the line until the person at the other end repeated it out loud to see what the phrase had become?

Well, I’ll let you into a little secret….we’re still playing it. All these years later, nothing has changed. Apart from that now, we’re playing it at work.

It’s not uncommon for me to see Managers briefing their teams by either reading out the message for everyone to hear, sticking a piece of paper up on the notice board, or sending it out via e-mail. Teams would then interpret the information in different ways. They’d discuss it with their colleagues, mention it to their friends at lunch and before long the message gets tainted as everyone understands it a little bit differently, sometimes baring little or no resemblance to what was originally said.

Sound familiar?

The Telephone Game isn’t just a game for kids – it’s real and something we need to be aware of. So next time you have to cascade a briefing think about how you’re going to do this to minimise misunderstandings.

Keep it simple

What is the message that you want to relay? How important is it? Is it absolutely crucial that everyone understands exactly what is being said? If so, ensure your message is crystal clear by running it past a couple of people to see if they understand it. Avoid jargon, and technical terms – keep it as simple as possible.

Think about the best way to brief the team

Your team will all absorb information differently. Some will prefer to hear it, whilst others prefer to read. So, if possible cover all bases. Go through the briefing with your team with you explaining (and not necessarily reading) the briefing. Stick to the facts and avoid digressing and going off topic. You might then want to post the briefing to the notice board or email it round to give everyone the opportunity to read it at their leisure.

Remember the rule of 3

The rule of 3 suggests that as humans we tend to remember things more if they come in a 3. The idea behind it is that our brains like patterns and 3 is the smallest number we can use to make a pattern. Anyway, if our brains work best that way, then go with it. Use a list of 3 in your briefing and give them headings that are easy to remember.

Questions are important

Take the time to ask your team questions to see what they have taken from your briefing and what you need to clarify. You can do this straight after the briefing, but also make some time to ask again the next day after everyone has had time to reflect.
Remember to also make yourself available for your team to ask you any questions they may have – whether it’s at the end of the briefing or on a one to one basis.

Briefing your team is a key part of communicating effectively, so by taking the time to think about how to deliver your messages, you’ll have a much better chance of it getting all the way along the line without being changed.

Want to know how to create a communication strategy in just 15 minutes…take a look here.

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