YOU and your guild are ready for the big raid……
it’s a tough pull and as the raid leader, you need to do something—anything—to reduce the odds of a wipe. And you’re almost out of Hot Pockets. Even if you’ve read all the boards and come up with what should be a fail-proof plan, if you can’t communicate your commands clearly, you’re all pretty much setting yourself up for an epic fail. Even with the highest tier gear and maxed-out levels, the ability to communicate clearly is a must-have when you’re out there in a dangerous online world (and it doesn’t hurt to use it in the real world too!)
Getting your message across effectively is a vital part of being a successful manager. While solid financing, a well-founded business plan, and a great team are important, good communication is what makes it all come together and stay together. While some people (Christian “I’ll trash your lights” Bale comes to mind) certainly get their point across, you’re going to want to conduct your conversations in a lower tone of voice. Effective communication (and therefore successful business) hinges on people being able to communicate clearly with each other.
People communicate in lots of different ways—
through body language, words, Hawaiian shirts, facial expressions, even hand signs—but that doesn’t mean everyone does it perfectly and there’s always room for improvement (Are you listening, Bobby Knight?). Whether you’re an individual or a company, a few basic rules will help you get your message across clearly.
“Great communication skills really are the most important aspect of the leadership.”
– Comment from an MMO guild leader
- Be clear in your own mind about what you want to say
- Figure out the best way to get your message and meaning across
- Find a happy medium between too much and not enough
- Don’t overlook barriers to clear communication–including your own
Choose the Right Method
Communication methods can be grouped more or less into four general types:
(1) Written word
(2) Spoken word
(3) Symbolic gestures
(4) Visual images (but not Hawaiian shirts)
When you do it right, any of the four works well individually. Combine two or more methods to increase interest, comprehension, and retention (and possibly increase the chance that you will be misunderstood).
So, what type of communication should you choose?
First, ask yourself what you’re trying to express. Think about your target audience. An informal Monday morning stand-up isn’t really the place for a full-blown presentation about benefits. Think about available time and resources. Spending a boatload on an outside consultant probably isn’t the best choice for a presentation to senior management about cutting costs. Especially with an economy so troubled even The Sims are facing foreclosure.
Ways to Get Your Message Across:
- Writing: Letters, memos, reports, proposals, billboards, notes, contracts, summaries, agendas, notices, regulations, minutes, plans – putting it in writing makes it more formal (and sometimes more “official”). The written word is the traditional way that organizations communicate because it’s relatively permanent and accessible. Now that we use email and other kinds of electronic communication as easily as we used to use hard copy memos, it makes communication faster (which has its upside and downside, which we’ll talk about later.)
- Talking: Conversations, interviews, meetings, phone calls, debates, requests, debriefings, announcements, speeches and presentations. Sometimes the most effective way to communicate is to say the words where people can see you while you talk. Along with email, verbal exchanges in person and by phone are the chief means by which organizations function.
- Symbolic Gestures – Gestures, facial expressions, actions, posture, movement and physical presence. Actions and body language can affect people profoundly, even when it’s unintentional.
- Visual Images: Photographs (slides and prints), paintings, drawings, illustrations, graphics, cartoons, charts, videos, logos, film, doodles, collages, and color schemes. Calvin & Hobbes is a n outstanding example of effective visual communication. Visual images convey powerful messages. The use of multimedia like television, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, booklets, flyers, posters, Internet, intranet, video, radio, and/or music is especially useful when your listeners can participate. Remember the old adages: “Show, don’t tell” and “A picture is worth 1000 words.”
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Did You Really Mean That?
First impressions are crucial. The initial five seconds of a first meeting are more important than the next five minutes. This is important whether you’re sending a cover letter with your resume or going into your first face-to-face meeting.
Your body language with its huge range of unconscious physical movements can either support you or betray you. Even if you’re sitting completely still, you may be unknowingly communicating a powerful message about your real feelings through “micro-expressions.” Gestures, posture, and facial expressions, work together can say as much, if not more, than your words. Body language is difficult to control but there are things you can do to make yourself more aware of what you’re “saying.”
You can actually use body language to look more confident that you actually feel by making a conscious effort to smile (as naturally as possible, of course) and relax. Look people in the eye (imagine them in something ridiculous if it makes you more comfortable) whether you’re talking or listening, keep your posture comfortably straight, and try not to fidget. If you’re feeling tense, take a slow, deep breath to relax yourself. Speak slowly so you don’t pepper your speech with annoying interjections like “um” and “y’know” which can make you sound unprepared and less knowledgeable.
You only have limited control over how others react to you but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
“Attitudes are the real figures of speech.” – Edwin H. Friedman
Recognizing and dealing with personal barriers is one of the first steps toward good communication and this includes your barriers as well as others. Everyone has different barriers so it’s important to be aware of your issues and then learn to sense barriers in others.
Prejudice is a major roadblock to good communication. Everyone is influenced to some degree by his or her beliefs but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to change, especially if what you believe is getting in the way of your ability to communicate effectively. Do your best to maintain an open mind.
Are you afraid to speak up in a meeting because you like a game that others think was lame? Do you automatically discount what a female co-worker says because you don’t think she’s a “hard core” gamer? Do you think that someone who has been in the industry a long time is a has-been? Or do you ignore input from someone who has only been working in the industry for a year or two? Even though the culture in our industry is seen as laid back and informal, it’s still a business with people who bring their individual personalities (including barriers) to work with them every day.
When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway
Marc Mencher Biography:
Game Programmer / Technical Producer gone Recruiter, Marc has been in the Game Industry for 30 years! Marc is a speaker at game industry conferences. He volunteers as an advisory board member for several schools offering game programs. His articles have been featured in publications like Gamasutra, Industry Gamers, Game Daily, and Next Generation News.
Specializing in un-advertised, strategically important and critical game industry jobs, GameRecruiter is staffed by Entertainment Industry Professionals. Confidentiality Assured! For more information: www.GameRecruiter.com a detailed bio on Marc can be found: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Mencher