The One Imperative for an Effective Communication Culture

What contributes to an effective communications culture inside data science, research and analytic teams and environments? And why should you care?

After spending three days last week both presenting at and attending the International Institute for Analytics symposium in Atlanta where we discussed and debated this question (among many others), I came away with a rather unexpected conclusion.

I have long held that preparation, especially in the form of structured thought and content framing, rigorous elimination of non-essential information and the addition of key compelling stories was what initially drives great communication of complex ideas and themes. And indeed, those are still top of the list that also includes delivery, visuals, and more.

But to shape a culture where the complex messages truly resonate in clear and concise ways, I concluded it hinges on one thing: feedback.

5 Strategies for Giving Feedback in a Productive Communications Culture

Yet feedback is a really tricky thing. So I compiled a few strategies that may or may not be obvious, but nonetheless critical in building toward a productive communications culture.

Permission. Every person needs to give permission to receive feedback. It’s not hard to ask, but it’s impossible to receive feedback if you aren’t open to it.

Immediate. Any verbal presentation delivered won’t benefit from feedback unless it is immediate. Time fades everything and to grab onto the 2-3 most important development opportunities, it must be timely. As in within the hour or day.

Contextual. All feedback needs an understanding of where you were the last time and where you are headed. If you are moving from a C to a B, that’s way different than if you are moving from a D to a B. Recognizing the breadth of the leaps are critical.

Semantics. It’s super helpful if you have a common language to use when giving feedback. One participant shared when she was at her previous company, she would receive it like this:
Here’s what you did well
Here’s what you missed
Here’s what to improve upon.

Peer support. My favorite takeaway from the conference was when one executive said, “No one is allowed to present without a peer present.” After each moment, the peer provided immediate feedback in a common language way that indeed, is immediate and because they work together closely, always contextual.

I’m sure to write more about this in the future, in the meantime, don’t hesitate to get started on your own cultures of feedback. And read Acacia Duncan’s article on how to give individual feedback.