I will preface this article with a confession. I was as guilty of poor communication skills as the next leader. I have improved immensely over time with a lot of focus and gentle “reminders” from my teams, so if you are to be successful, you need to understand how poor communication is wasting time and money.
I am not sure why proper communication skills or public speaking is not taught in schools at an early age. I think this is the single most important skill every person needs. Maybe some schools try to address this but I hear poor communication from leaders, managers and many others every day in many different circumstances. Too many times I have heard myself, my team or those I consult for talk to their team in generalities.
It makes me wonder how much time will be wasted revisiting what the speaker had originally intended.
Examples of Poor Communication Skills:
- “We need to pick up our numbers this month”
- “We need more effort”
- “We seem to be a little down today. Let’s brighten up our moods”
- “Ok, let’s get moving and take of those things.”
And the list can go on and on. But from this list (besides you chuckling) were you clear on what I expected? OR did an image pop into your head with a resolution that fit your take on the situation.
I will hazard a guess that 99 times out of 100 what popped into your head as a solution will not match what I expected.
How to Improve Communication Skills
Be very clear on what results you are expecting
Make the results numerical if possible. For instance, if I wanted someone to “pick up his or her numbers” I need to know where they are in performance and where I need them to get
So if they are at 50 units and I need them at 75, I have to tell them that. We all know what 75 means.
Be clear on what you expect in terms of behavior changes.
You need to work through specific behaviors the person needs to employ so they are able to achieve this new goal
In this case, you may tell your team, “I need you to make 20 more calls a day.” Or “We need to use our documented follow up process each day.” “Greet the customer with a smile.” “I need you to let the customer finish before you begin to talk. Do not interrupt the customer.”
You will need to map out new behaviors and explain them to the team in order to help them achieve the new goal. If you do not, you will waste a huge amount of time getting frustrated over poor execution. But you have no one to blame but yourself because you did not take the time to be clear.
The best tool to make sure there is no misunderstanding is to demonstrate what you would like to happen. By showing them what you expect (if possible) there leaves no room for mistakes. Then when you follow up, it is easy to get people back on track if they drifted away. By doing this, it allows you to monitor behavior and target your training efforts.
Finally, give your team feedback along the way.
Compliment them on things they are doing right and make adjustments to the skills they still need to improve.
Pushing people to a high goal is great but they need small wins along the way. The more clear you can be in the beginning, even if it takes a little more time, will save you in the long run.