Ann Bachrach, The Accountable Coach
“Don’t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood” said Dr. John Lund, a well-known author and researcher in the field of human relationships – specifically in the area of communication. This subtle distinction is incredibly important, because it puts the responsibility of understanding on the shoulders of the communicator, not the audience. If you want to communicate with your team and your clients in a way that gets the results you want, you must speak with them in a way that they receive information best, and anticipate their thoughts and needs before you ever enter into a conversation with them.
Most people enter into a conversation that you are about to have with them wondering:
• What do they want from me?
• How long is this going to take?
• Do I care about what they are saying to me?
• How is what they are saying going to help or benefit me?
If you are speaking with employees, they may also be thinking:
• Am I in trouble; have I done something wrong?
• Is my workload going to be made heavier?
• I have work to finish before I can go home – how long will this take?
If you can find a way to manage conversation expectations from the very beginning, the chances of the person you are speaking to actually listening to what you have to say and engaging with you goes up exponentially.
Clearly State Your Purpose
Before you get into the meat of the conversation with a client or employee, it is best to come right out and address what the conversation is about and also address any of the previously mentioned questions they may be thinking. This could look like:
“Hello (client name), I wanted to talk to you about (state your purpose or conversation goal) – it should only take about fifteen minutes and I really think that it will benefit you personally/your business/your bottom line/etc.” In just a few short words, you have clearly outlined what you expect to discuss with them, you have offered them an idea of how long you expect the discussion to take, and you have outlined a glimpse of how you think the conversation topic will benefit or affect them.
If you need to speak with an employee about a disciplinary issue, for example, you could say, “Hello (employee name); I need to discuss (state the infraction) with you; it should only take a few minutes, and while I am disappointed to have to address this with you, I value you as an employee and think we can work through this quickly together.” By getting to the point immediately, you let your employee know what the conversation is about, and you quickly reassure them that their job is not in jeopardy, and this does not have to be a long, drawn-out, painful conversation.
Be a Better Listener Than You Are a Talker
When you were a child, your mother or father may have told you, “you have two ears to hear, one mouth to speak – this is so you spend twice as much time listening as you do talking.” While this is true of childhood, it is even more true and important in adulthood – especially for business owners that want to take their company and their communication skills to the next level.
If you want to foster a spirit of open, effective communication in your business that is open-ended and also gets fantastic results, you need to create a culture where listening and engaging openly with others is second nature. Being a good listener does not come naturally to most people. In fact, many people spend their “listening” time just thinking to themselves about what they are going to say once the person they are talking to is done speaking. If you take the time to truly hear and understand what others are communicating to you, you will gain their trust and make them feel heard, appreciated, and understood.
Why does good listening and solid communication matter so much? Studies suggest that companies that have an open communication policy and that engage positively and consistently with one another see up to 19% growth in operating income. On the other hand, the same studies showed that companies that had consistently poor communication posted up to 32% less revenue growth.
The bottom line is: if you want high-level results within your company and with your clients, you need to make consistent and effective communication a priority. That means taking ownership over each and every conversation so that you preemptively meet the needs and unspoken problems that your employees and clients may have going into a conversation. It also means creating an environment that encourages listening and feedback.
Take some time this week to evaluate your current communication processes; consider what is working and where you are falling short. Once you have this information, pick one area of shortcoming to improve in the next few days. It could be related to implementing new policies or just having a difficult conversation you have been putting off.