Our blogs lately have all been about leadership, but for effective leadership a key component has to be communication. I’ve found that failure to communicate seems to be behind much that goes wrong in life, and we hear the reasons:
- Nobody told me
- That wasn’t what I understood
- The instructions weren’t clear enough
- We never know what’s going on
How different things would be if we all understood each other all the time! With just a little more thought, greater understanding can be achieved, and that makes a good outcome much more likely. The sender has to take responsibility for the communication, and to take into account the inevitable barriers that crop up:
- Semantic – the words we use
- Physical – such as distractions or a loud environment
- Psychological – reaction to tone, prejudice (on both sides!), attitudes and expectations
As always, planning is the key; the sender needs to think about what they want to achieve, the likely needs of their receiver, and the tone, words and information needed to satisfy both. It’s often helpful to think in these terms:
- As a result of this communication, the receiver will…
- For this to happen, they need to understand…
- To understand this, they need to know…
Basing our approach on the needs of the receiver (rather than the one that is comfortable for us) is much more likely to create understanding and acceptance. These in turn are more likely to produce the outcome that we want, leading to greater efficiency and better relationships.
Failure to communicate effectively wastes resources – not least as a result of rework. Consider the cost every time a customer misunderstands a request and does the wrong thing: they have to be asked again, leading to delay; the resource put into the original request was wasted; and the customer will be irritated. If we fail to create understanding, it is our responsibility. If a customer fills in a form incorrectly, it is our form design that is at fault – the customer is always right!
It’s hard to think of anything (other than sitting alone in a dark room) that doesn’t involve communication in one way or another, and our ability to communicate is one of the things that define us as human beings. It’s probably worth a bit of effort, then.