In January, we had our first team meeting of 2017. As you would expect, we reviewed our vision and goals for 2017 and what will be our key areas of focus. We went over each team member’s key assignments. However, we spent the majority of our time focusing on one critical topic—COMMUNICATION. Why? Because whether you work virtually or in an office environment, how well you communicate with your coworkers has everything to do with your ability to execute your work with excellence. Your internal communication will spill over (whether good or bad) and affect how you present yourself to prospects, clients, and outside suppliers and vendors.
All the brilliant strategies and talent in the world can’t take you across the finish line as a winner if you don’t communicate well with each other. Your shoes are untied. We all have communication blind spots—you know, those areas where you think one thing but say another, or you say one thing but mean something else. Here are some simple steps you can take to “lace up” and make sure that internal disconnects and misunderstandings don’t sideline or distract you from accomplishing all your phenomenal plans for 2017.
Clarify – whether you are writing an email or speaking in person, make sure you are clear about what you are asking. Don’t assume that the person or group you are connecting with sees or thinks the way you do. BE SPECIFIC about what you are asking. I recently sent an email about tracking where our team member’s time was being spent. In my mind, I was asking a question and seeking feedback. But what was received was that I was directing that an extensive review be done and a detailed analysis of everyone’s time be presented—a task that would have taken hours to produce.
Fortunately this came out in our meeting and I was able to clarify my intentions. Time was saved, not to mention the aggravation that would have occurred had the team member spent hours working on the project only to have me sigh and blow off their effort with a casual, “Oh, I didn’t mean for you to do all that work. That’s not what I’m asking.” That exchange would have created unnecessary drama and distraction from what’s truly important.
Confirm – When you’ve been given an assignment, it’s best to repeat back, “So what I understand you’re asking for is this. Is that correct?” I’m a visionary and as such in one email I can easily and quickly spew out a list of seven things I’m looking for. One of the best responses I can get back is not just a “yes, sir” but rather, something more like “David, of these seven things I can see where items 1, 3, 5, and 6 make complete sense. But do you really want me to invest the time, which I estimate will be about four hours, to do numbers 2 and 7?” When being forced to stop and think through the consequences of what I’m asking for, I will often revise or reduce my request.
Commit – Once each party is clear on what is being asked, make certain that everyone commits to the results. My former boss used to always say, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It’s so true. Most people don’t like accountability and whether intentionally or unintentionally will divert to being vague rather than specific. “Please be sure you finish this project up on time,” doesn’t cut it. How much better to say: “Please be sure you send the final high-resolution files to the printer by noon, January 17 and send me a confirmation text that this was done.” Another aspect of good communication is being clear about the consequences. What happens if you don’t make the deadline? The goal is not to be threatening, but helpful.
If a deadline is not going to be met, it’s better to know that as far ahead of the actual deadline as possible. Nine times out of 10, people know whether or not a deadline will be met well before the actual deadline. How can you create a culture that encourages people to fess up rather than cover up?
May you be clear with where you are headed this year and may you enjoy the journey of getting there!
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