Communicate In A Team To Be Understood
A few tips on communicating with your team and how to be understood.
By Tara Lehman
This article is not about the way people communicate to you or in the world around you, but how YOU communicate to others. We need to communicate to be understood. Every second our brain takes in a lot of information but cannot process all of it. This may be why what you say may be heard by 3 different people in 3 different ways. What do you think happens when we communicate via email if we are not communicating accurately when we talk? Confusion, emotions, frustration and more. We all want to be understood in the way we expect to be, but this does not always happen. Why? Because we may not be clear in our words, use words that could have different meanings to different people, or even have visual signals that show others something different than what we intend.
If you want to be understood, be sure you are being clear. This means that when you say something, you are specific. For example instead of saying I am going to be in a 5km race I should say I am going to be a vendor supporting the charity of a 5km race – being clear on what our participation means. I am not a runner, I am there as a vendor to raise money for the charity. If we take an example of a manager asking an employee to complete a task, we may say I need this done for tomorrow. What we really mean is I need it done by lunch tomorrow for a meeting in the afternoon, but we were rushing to give the employee instructions. We will be disappointed in our employee tomorrow when it is not done on time, but this could be entirely our fault, not our employees. Maybe they have morning priorities and have prioritized your work for the afternoon when they are free. Being clear with your words and expectations is very important, as is deadlines including date and time. We want our team to succeed as much as we want to succeed. Remember, they are your back up crew. They are your team, so ensure they are given the communication you want them to hear.
One way to ensure you know they are understanding what you are trying to say is to ask a question. For example: How will you prioritize your work to ensure I can get that report by tomorrow at noon? This open question allows for more conversation and clarity to your expectation. It will also allow discussion about any other priorities that may cause issues on getting a report done and allow you to find another way (if needed) to get it down or re-prioritize your employees work with them.
If you are struggling with an employee getting work done on time, accurately, etc, then first ask yourself if they truly know what the expectation is. I was in a training session once where they explained that a leader may be on a path and believe that their employees are on the same path. However, one little miscommunication could mean that you are on the path heading North and your employee is headed South, East or West, but not North.
One last tip in this short article is to ask the employee to confirm what you are asking them. Be professional in this and even say something like: I want to ensure I came across as I needed to, what do you feel I asked you to do and by when? This can help clarify some details you or your employee may have missed. Remember do not chastise your employee for communication if you cannot guarantee you provided all the important details.
So, what details do you usually need to convey? Here are a few, but it depends on the situation…deadlines (including date and time), expectations of the work (i.e. report must be in Excel, 5 page article for the news), topic, preparations for meeting, booking rooms, ensuring catering is booked, who may be attending a meeting, dress code if it is different than normal (maybe your CEO from head office is coming and you want everyone in business wear), etc. Not sure if you got all the details? Then ask your employee if they feel you missed anything.
I hope this helps a bit with why proper verbal communication is so important. If you need help with your team or communication skills, I can help. Tara