One of the things that I think is most powerful in effective communication is making sure that you're on the same page as your colleagues, peers, and direct-reports.
You may not always agree, but you need to make sure that you have a common understanding, a matching set of expectations of each other, and a decent way to communicate openly and honestly -- in my opinion -- for you to have any success at all.
Normally, I start with the introduction questions mentioned in Getting to Know You, but then we need to move on to more regular check-ins.
For these I like to start with a simple opener: "How are you going?".
I know that this sounds REALLY simple, almost too-simple, but it really helps to break the ice, and let me see what is on your mind. My goal here is to try and figure out how you're feeling before you even tell me - that'll show me that we're on a good level and that I can read your emotions, which, like it or not, is a skill that comes in handy for a lot of different situations.
I don't want our syncs to be a status update, a project check-in, or us walking down a list of KPI's. I want to use this half-hour (or more, if we're new to this) to talk about YOU, and me, and what I can do to help you, and what you can do to help me. Just like friends, having a chat, and not afraid to ask for help.
I don't know if you know about Rands, but if you're in management, or you're leading a group of people, you probably should. He has a great book, and over a decade of writing, including management tips, over on his site. He updates the content regularly, and I would advise following along/subscribing/whatever.
As an aside, I still miss Google Reader. Can someone bring it back? Please?
One of the best write-ups I could find when I was writing this section, that aligned best with me, and what I'm aiming to get out of our syncs is an article he wrote called "The Update, The Vent, and The Disaster. Please go and give it a read now, I'll wait.
Now Rands puts it a lot better than I could, but I'll try and summarise these three types of syncs in my words below:
This is a normal sync, nothing out of the ordinary, and you don't need me to do anything immediately, and I don't need you to help me with anything at this moment. A regular chat, two friends, just checking in. This is obviously my most relaxed type of sync, but I'm always a little skeptical if you have "nothing" going on... Surely we're missing something? Guess when it's read it'll turn into:
You've got something on your mind, you need to get it out, and you're either holding it in, waiting for me to ask the "right" questions, and hit on the nerve-point, or we've progressed to the point where you just want to blurt it all out. Either is fine. My role in this type of a sync is to listen, to take it all in, and to see if there is any sort of feedback or resolutions that I could suggest to you. Even if there's nothing I can do, sometimes it feels good just to get it off your chest!
If we don't address it at this stage, or we've skipped a sync due to holidays, and now it's bigger than Ben Hur, it might have become time for...
The world is on fire, the king is not wearing any clothes, and we don't even have time to jump into the #war-room. This type of a sync is by far the most draining, but it's my responsibility to get all the right info out, onto the table, and work through it with you. We should make sure that we don't finish a sync like this until there is a solution in sight, or at least a plan for "next steps".
Another, easier, but sadder type of "the Disaster" is when you start a sync and someone hands you a (proverbial) envelope. This isn't good news for one of you, and even though all good things must come to and end, it doesn't make the "Can I grab you for a moment?" land any softer.
Long story short, give the Rands post a good read, try and figure out what this means for us, and by default: please be open and honest with me. I need to know what's going on so that I can best help you to help me help you -- if that makes sense.