A couple of recent “communication kerfuffles” have me thinking about how I could have handled the situations differently and how lack of good communication can hamper a firm’s growth. By handling these situations differently, I wonder how I could or should have communicated or responded for additional clarification so the situations didn’t result in such an ambiguous state. When there is a lack of clarity of next steps or follow-up between the communicating parties, time is wasted as both parties often don’t move forward (or are able to move forward as quickly) on tasks, projects, or goals as a cohesive team.
This Website Is For Financial Professionals Only
Here are two recent experiences I have had that should not have ended like they did.
I helped form and am the coach of a 16U girl’s club fastpitch softball team. In our welcome letter (email) sent out to players selected to play on the team, we outlined the payment schedule. Since it is fairly expensive to play on the team, we created a payment schedule…one amount due up front last fall, another amount due by the end of the year, and another amount due when registering this spring. Seemed easy and reasonable and that it was communicated clearly to the parents. Somehow, between last fall and the beginning of the season, the parents had forgotten (or disregarded) the payment schedule. Numerous emails and phone calls have had to be made to get each player registered and receive the scheduled payments. Poor communication and follow-up resulted in a lot of extra work to get things cleared up and back on track. We will do things differently next season!
Another example of poor communication happened recently in my business. In one of my consulting engagements, I had completed the work I agreed upon for the client. The client had mentioned other projects they had and I had expressed interest in working on them after I had completed what I was working on for them and other clients. They agreed that we could wait to proceed on these future engagements. A few weeks later, I contacted the client regarding the other projects that were previously mentioned. The projects were never mentioned and the response was almost like they never existed. It is entirely possible that the company had a change of plans, I get that. What I don’t get is the lack of communication when plans change.
We all have run into similar situations with clients, business partners, family and friends.
I believe one of the worst things that results from poor communication is that one (or both) parties are left not knowing what the next steps are or should be. If someone is unsure what the next steps or follow-up from the communication should be, they will likely do something unintended. Most people would rather “know where they stand” even if they receive bad news than not knowing where they stand. Uncertainty results in frustration from both parties.
Do a Google search for “Good Communication” or “Communication Skills” or something similar and you will get dozens of pages of results. Below are some recommendations from experts to communicate more clearly as well as some of my own suggestions from prior experiences.
Things we all should consider to reduce unclear, ambiguous, and confusing communication and the frustration that results:
· Be attentive (listen closely)- Make sure both sides are clear on expectations/next steps/outcomes/follow-up needed or required.
· Be an “active” listener- Listen to what is being said with no agenda. Do not think of your response until after the other person has finished speaking.
· Focus on the person you are communicating with- Maintain eye contact. Smile, look the other person in the eyes and show interest in what they are saying. Don’t get distracted by what is going on around you (email, phone, etc). Have you ever been talking with someone and they seem more interested in their phone and email than they do talking with you?
· Slow down when communicating- In the age of multi-tasking and getting more done in less time, we are often in a hurry. Slowing down during the communication process will result in less confusion and frustration later on. This is particularly true when communicating via text, email, or voicemail.
· Speak clearly and use the right words, tone, and body language. Think of the message you want to convey before your words come out.
· Read the entire written communication- When communicating in writing, particularly via email, make sure to read the entire email. What needs to be responded to or followed up on is often at the end of the email. Over the years, I have noticed that the message receiver has not answered my question(s) fully or only answered one of the multiple questions or issues addressed. We are becoming used to communicating in 140 characters or less. Our attention span seems to be getting shorter!
· Get to your point- If you are long-winded in your written or verbal communication, your message can get lost. Be direct and honest. Everyone is busy, don’t waste people’s time.
· Ask questions and seek clarification if you do not understand the message. This will help assure both parties that there is no confusion.
· Say what you will do and do what you say- Be true to your word. We all have had people say they will do something and then not deliver on what they say. Your credibility depends on your word.
The results of poor communication to your business can be many. However, if you follow these suggestions, you will experience less confusion and ambiguity, have confidence that your business is moving forward (things are getting done), and be more assured that everyone on the team is “on the same page.”
Build your business wisely.