It is remarkable how many people think they are good communicators. Most people judge the effectiveness of their communication on what they say or write. But, there’s a funny thing about communicating, if the other party doesn’t get whatever it is you’re trying to say – you fail. No grading, it’s all pass/fail.
I saw a delightful exercise recently for a manager in training at a restaurant. With the manager’s voice guidance alone, she was to get her staff, one at a time, to walk through a little obstacle course in the parking lot. Each of the staff would have things in their hands and do some rudimentary tasks along the way all while they were blindfolded.
It took her numerous tries to realize you can’t just say turn and go forward, you have to say turn left and take two steps forward. You can’t say reach in front of you, without saying how far or how fast because you might knock over exactly what was being reached for.
How many emails does it take you to provide explicit instructions about what you wish to have accomplished? How much ambiguity is there in everything you write? Ever read your emails as instruction sets?
If you’re trying to be instructional, how are you layering your communication to be both encouraging and strict? If you’re trying to be motivational how are you providing both the good with the bad?
Want to know how to tell? Look at the audience, the listeners or the results. If they are all nodding in agreement and walk away going in exactly the direction you expected, you were fantastic. If they go away and start asking “what did she mean”, not good. If the creative person you just advised went away and then did something totally unexpected and off-course, well, you failed to communicate. Ever leave a meeting and wonder what it was about and who is going to do what by when?
Funny thing about communication, too. It is never the listeners responsibility to listen better (or read better). It is always the speaker’s (or writer’s) responsibility to convey the message better.
Good leaders are separated from great leaders by how well they communicate. Reread your emails. Reconsider your meetings or sales pitches. Revisit your website from a fresh vantage point. Is your message crystal clear so that anyone in your audience will easily get it? If not, change it!
Improve you communications and you will immediately see time savings. You will immediately see increases in productivity. Put the word CLARITY on a post-it note and attach it to the frame of your screen right now. Let it give you pause to increase your clarity.
And those of you who text a lot, you may very well be guilty of sloppy communication far more than you know, wasting hours and hours of you and your people’s time when you think you are making it better. With communication happening via phone, email, text, post, Twitter, etc., becoming really, really effective at communication can propel you toward success faster than ever before.