Need some quick advice on gaining greater clarity in communication and leadership? It works with your family, friends, or colleagues! Here are 2 important tips based on my experience:
(1) Don’t assume that everyone hears (and visualizes) your message.
We have a natural tendency to assume that if it’s clear to us, why would it not be clear to others? Sports teams usually have set plays, and they rehearse them in practice for weeks in class and on the field—both verbally and visually and even physically—before they execute them in the game. Hours and hours are spent getting everyone executing their assignment for each situation. At work this is usually not the case. For most situations there is no playbook, so when the leader calls the play, team members create their own individual mental diagrams/pictures of what it’s supposed to look like. We must over-communicate the message and get feedback to make sure everyone understands expectations and why those expectations are in place.
(2) Regularly and publicly clarify standards and expectations.
At the top of the organization most of these expectations may be at the 100,000- foot level. As we move down the organization, the clarity gets more granular as standards are interpreted more specifically to the environment and tasks. There are several issues of human nature working against us here. First, it’s hard work because it takes mental discipline, time, and energy to clarify what is expected and what level of detail is required. Second, as the leader, if you set, clarify, and emphasize high standards, then you have to live up to them also – and what if you fail? I’ve actually seen many leaders resist clarifying expectations because it seemed easier and much less threatening to retain flexibility and interpret standards on the spot. That way they could avoid having to confront themselves with their shortcomings.
In the Tongue and Quill, the Air Force handbook for writing and speaking there was one idea that stayed with me: to get better, you have to “fight for feedback.” Fight for clarity and then you will be more successful when you’re communicating with others.
Please also post your comments and experience below, too – thank you
You can also read the entire article on this topic in the blog – “Behavioral Differences in Communicating with Clarity”