Friday, March 16, 2012

It Comes Down To Communication

Effective communication takes effort both when speaking and listening
 "But behavior in the human being is sometimes a defense, a way of concealing motives and thoughts, as language can be a way of hiding your thoughts and preventing communication. '
    ~ Abraham Maslow


 "It all comes back to communication, doesn't it."

This was the statement from a client recently, a young very savvy professional, manager of a local outpost of a business that's into a highly technical, engineering related field.

Marketing. Managing employees. Managing customers. Understanding which metrics in the system really matter. They all relate back in some way to communication. They can all be impacted - for good or bad - by communication.

It's quite surprising how often the things that are not working in a business, are suffering because of a breakdown in how we communicate. Communicated poorly by others, but sometimes how we communicate with ourselves.

 Know what you really want to know
We can spend enormous amounts of time collecting data on things that may or may not matter, before we have even asked ourselves the questions that really pinpoint and then articulate our true and deepest ambition we want to achieve. Instead we build sentences that sound impressive but don't really communicate the essential nub of what we want to know.

Take the case of a marketing plan. Many times I've heard people say they have a business plan or a marketing plan and it is this: "Create a high quality product and provide good service."  As fine as an ambition this may be, it is not a marketing plan. It is not a vision. It is certainly no business plan. It may be a value, and a commendable philosophy to work to, but it is not specific, has no action and no standard by which it can be measured.

It is a tag line at best and for some it might be called their mission statement. Is it useful? Probably not.

When identifying issues that are to be resolved, it is worth ensuring that there is an action that can be taken to fit with the instruction. Be specific and ensure that when this matter is resolved there is something to show that this is so. Something is now happening that didn't before the instruction, or something has ceased to happen since the instruction was given.

Say there was a problem with start times and employees being on time for work. A new instruction would clearly let everyone know the problem that is the issue, what action they would take to fix it, and management (and everyone else) can see when it has been successfully adopted.

The measurable clear change would be:
  • Employees are arriving on time for work, or
  • Employees have stopped arriving late for work.
Some areas to watch
Setting deadlines that are non specific.

"Two weeks" is not the same as a date.

If you want something done in two weeks, then go the little bit further and specify what date that will be.
EG. 3 May 2012

And further, specify what action if any, needs to be taken after that thing is completed, to advise others who have a vested interest.


Which actually describes a small process and one that can become a Good Habit. Good processes in a business mean everyone can do them, they are replicable and they save time and confusion. And they can improve productivity and consistency.

Small changes big improvement
Just this one tiny action spread across a workplace can have big impact. Suddenly things that have been dragging on for months and not being attended to are done, ticked off the work sheet and that's cleared one small bit of space and burden from the shoulders of however was to do that thing, and whoever was waiting for that thing to to be done. In some cases this will also enable a third person to act on their part of what comes next so it can be like a chain reaction sometimes. All good.

Specific language, to deliver a well-constructed instruction is a part of good communication. We can do this when we frame questions, too. So often we can fall into the habit of giving a vague instruction. The person who then has to carry out that duty, is not sure exactly what is required, how to do it or what priority it has.  This can be very stressful to that person, and frustrating for the person who issued the instruction, when it doesn't happen, or is done to a standard that was less than expected.


If you are giving instructions, ensure that you are clear in what you want to happen. If you are asking for information be clear what it is you want to know.

If you are receiving instructions and are not sure exactly what is expected of you or about some issue relation to that instruction, seek clarification. Ask. Don't just do what you assume is expected unless you are sure that is what was meant.

Can you identify an area where communications could be improved in your business or at home?

 Related:
Purpose before action
Customers wonder: "Why don't you know me?"
Are you right or wrong about what you think and how do you tell?
Love your customers and engage - try it with your staff too





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