Ask Coach Colleen … July 2024


Ask Coach Colleen … July 2024

Communication Should Not Be a Game of Telephone

Back before work was online, you called people to talk and used fax machines to send documents. Although I do not miss the screeching sound of someone trying to send a fax to my phone, I miss the simplicity of those times. Juggling multiple email accounts, instant messaging apps, and texts leaves us with information overload. So, how do you cut through the clutter?  


Do Not Bury the Lead  

Business communications often boil down to answering the questions of what, so what, and now what? 

  • What = Here is what is changing.
  • So what = Here is what that change means [Text Wrapping Break] for you.
  • Now what = Here is what action (if any) you [Text Wrapping Break] need to take.


Ideally, if the communication is an email, the whatand the now whatare part of the subject line. For example, ACTION REQUIRED: New Health Benefits Registration is Open.The first part of the message answers the questions of what, so what, and now what? The message then should note who recipients should contact for additional information.  


Get clear about the urgency and importance  

Have you ever worked with someone who marked all their emails with an urgentred exclamation point? When every communication is labeled Important” or Urgent,” those words lose their meaning. 


A good way to objectively determine if something is important or urgent is to answer the questions, What happens if this message is ignored completely?and What happens if this message isnt acted on today?


Here are two examples:  

  • There is birthday cake in the breakroom! (This is urgent, but not important.)
  • Benefits plan updates are due tomorrow! (This is urgent and important, but only to those who have not done it yet.)


Using objectivity to determine the urgency and importance of messages will help your audience respond appropriately.   


Pick Your Channel(s)  

For most teams, communications happen via email, instant messages, text messages, and verbal discussions. Often, the decision of what is communicated via which channel comes down to personal preference, which means all channels must be monitored for important information.  


Decide which channels serve which purpose. For example, you use email for important information that is not urgent. If it’s important and urgent, you send the email and then send a message to instant messenger to alert people to read that email.  


Confirm Receipt 

If the information you are communicating could have legal or disciplinary consequences, it is essential to confirm that the message has been received.  


Documented confirmation allows you to hold recipients accountable for receiving the information and for understanding that the information has real consequences. Various ways exist to obtain confirmation. However, the most straightforward is to send a document that requires the recipient to check a box labeled I’ve read and understood. 



Communication is a closed loop. A message is sent, the message is received, and the sender receives confirmation that the message has been received. If you are the sender, your job is not finished until you have received confirmation that the message was received. 


Here are two examples of what that might look like:  

  • A pop quiz. Randomly ask people about what you communicated. If they can tell you the essential information, fantastic! If you get a bunch of blank stares, you may need to change strategies.
  • Teach-backs. Have your leadership team repeat the information back to you exactly as they would relay it to their teams. This way, you will know the message was not lost in translation.


Have fun! 

The humor effect is a magical thing. The humor effect is a cognitive bias that causes people to remember information better if it is funny.  


Try some of these strategies and let me know how they go!  


Colleen Gallion[Text Wrapping Break]is an ICF-certified professional coach whose passion is supporting entrepreneurs and founders in building healthy and sustainable teams.For more information, visit 

Article contributed by:
Colleen Gallion, Gaillion Coaching
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