You work hard and so does your team. Sometimes, a mis-alignment of communication, interpretation, or expectations occurs. It happens. It’s not a bad thing even if it happens once in awhile. But when it becomes a frequent occurrence, you begin to question your team’s ability to execute or your ability to communicate.
If you pare down your job or business — and take away all the extraneous stuff you do — the most important part is COMMUNICATION. Simple, two-way and CLEAR communication. I give you information and I get your response. You tell me to do something and I tell you when I can get it done. I explain the merits of my products and services and you buy. And on and on and on.
Here's the simple fact — it's not as easy as it looks. In fact, some people tend to screw it up most of the time and wonder why they are being listened to or why their people or clients are not doing what they've been told. Do you find yourself saying:
- "They just aren't listening!"
- "Why are my clients checking out?"
- "Why do I tell my team one thing and they do another?"
If you catch yourself saying these and other choice phrases — you might need to tighten up your communication style.
Communication is a very complex process. When you communicate, you need to keep a sharp eye on the person you are communicating to. Why? There are so many signals where you need to modulate your communication to ensure they are understanding what you're saying.
Communication is made up of two competing spheres:
- Facts & Information (F&I) - this is the 'what' of the conversation. And usually where you do a good job of transmitting.
- Emotions & Feelings (E&F) - this is the 'why' of the conversation. And usually where you do a bad job of transmitting.
To communicate effectively, you need to better balance the two. Most of the time, we spend 80-90% of our efforts in F&I and 10-20% in E&F. Unfortunately, in certain situations, you need to increase your E&F — but you don't — and this is where communication breaks down.
Why does this happen? Because communicating facts and information are easy — you just blabber away. Emotions and feelings take a certain amount of restrain — you have to ask questions, listen, and react to the other person's feelings and emotions. And that's hard for most people. It's the EQ (emotional quotient) of the conversation.
The bottom line — if you take the E&F into account and speak to it — your communication success will increase exponentially.
But how do you bridge that gap? Three steps:
1. Bring Them In.
Bring them into the conversation. If you find you are doing all or most of the talking, STOP. Start asking them questions, get their side of the conversation, issue, or situation. Then paraphrase what they said to ensure you are listening correctly, and then ask more questions. We tend to blabber on without a care about the person we are speaking with. One of my favorite phrases to use is "Tell Me More". If that fails . . .
2. Ask Them A Permission Question.
Pause and then ask one of these permission questions:
- May I offer a suggestion . . . ?
- Can we further explore . . . ?
- Would it be alright if . . . ?
- With your permission, can we . . . ?
These permission questions immediately stop the conversation, reverse it, and allow you to better understand what's going on in the head of the person you're speaking with. If that fails . . .
3. Tell Them A Story.
One of the best ways to bridge the gap between Facts & Information and Emotions & Feelings is to tell a related story, example or scenario. It adds weight to the conversation and allows the person to visualize and mentally illustrate what you're talking about.
Each of these steps allows the speaker — YOU — to better communicate, bring the client or team member into the conversation, and hopefully deliver better, faster and more clear communication to whatever you do.
Time is the one thing you can never get back. So you need to be careful with it, don't waste it, don't hurry through it, and use it effectively. You need to CONTROL your time.
How do you do that? It's easy and it's hard — here are some tips:
Clear Your Desk.
I know . . . it's hard. But once it's done, it is so easy to focus without any distractions to instantly pull you away from the task at hand. Also there is the visual aspect of a clean desk. You FEEL better about yourself and your surroundings. It's easier to find things and important papers don't get lost.
So here's my strategy — Pile, View, Attack/File/Toss/LCB:
- Pile - Take everything off your desk and make a single pile of paper.
- View - Pick up and look at each piece of paper. You must make four piles:
- Attack - work on it immediately - something you can complete within a short amount of time.
- File - File it away for future access.
- Toss - Throw it away. I know it's hard - but most of your pile can go this route.
- LCB: Last Chance Bin - get a box and place it under your desk. If you are unsure of tossing something, put it into this bin. If you need it later, it's there. If not (after 3-6 months), toss it out. This bin works wonders.
Plan Your Day.
This is the hardest and surprisingly the easiest way to get a better handle on your time. Why?
If you go somewhere or if you're on a trip, you have a destination and a route to get there. That's called a plan.
Why is it when you get to work you don't architect the same thinking for your activities, meetings, and tasks? What needs to be done — what is it's priority — and when will you complete it?
Randy Pausch developed a very simple, yet effective template to help anyone plan their day. It's made up of four quadrants:
- Due Soon and Not Due Soon
- Important and Not Important
When you look at your "Attack" pile of work for the day, you usually work through it based on time in and time out. But importance flies out the window — most people aren't working on the most important and critical tasks. This tool helps them do it.
Which ones to work on first? Upper left! Which ones to work on last? Lower right! Here's a PDF template you can use.
Work On One Thing At A Time.
This is where we all fall down. We think we can 'multi-task' our work and guess what? We never get anything done or even worse, we do things in a haphazard fashion.
Take your Attack pile and your Activity List and make your way down each item. Once it's complete, check it off. Set aside time to work on your attack pile — don't answer the phone — don't let anyone bother you — don't let anything take your focus away from the task at hand until you are DONE. You can always return that phone call 15-30 minutes later or go see the person who wanted to see you.
Also — turn your email reminders OFF. You can get back to checking email when you're DONE.
At first it will be difficult. But when you start to see a clean desk, a planned out day, and REAL progress on your work. These basic behaviors will begin to kick in. Try it!
Last week, I covered why communication is so important to business. Speaking with your clients, team, peers and boss are all critical to your success and are usually the nexus of problems when things go awry. See Part One here. If you break down the structure of communication, it really is the transmission of information. You say something, I respond. I say something, you respond.
It's a 'Give & Take' relationship, but sometimes the signal lines can be bad. The wires are compromised. Emotions get in the way.
And this can happen in a millisecond. It's probably happened to you — you are speaking with someone and suddenly — they shut down, they get an angry look on their face, or they bite back with venom. It's all happened to all of us — we chose the wrong word, or focused on the wrong example — and BAM! We get hit right in the nose. And it hurts.
Especially when communicating information. When selling to a prospect, instructing a team member, or speaking with a superior, one needs to be SO careful — here is the architecture of the conversation.
On one end is IDU — I Don't Understand. On the other is YDU — You Don't Understand.
IDU is the state where the person begins to shut down because you are speaking about a subject they don't know or understand. You are talking OVER their head. When it happens, the person starts to feel inferior or incompetent and they shut down.
YDU is the state where the person begins to get angry because YOU don't know or understand their situation. You are talking PAST them. When it happens, the person starts to feel angry or contempt for you — they begin to interrupt or sit and stew with anger.
IDU is on one end of the spectrum and YDU is on the other end. Your job is to remain in the middle with your communication, giving them info while ensuring you don't venture in IDU or YDU territory.
And the way to ensure this doesn't happen is to:
- Watch for physical signals. They might start looking away or looking angry or impatient. They might not respond immediately or come back with a response that sounds frustrated or angry. On the phone, listen for typing or clicking — they are not listening, they are multi-tasking.
- Ask questions along the way. Like: "Are you with me so far?" or "Am I speaking too quickly?" or " Do you want me to review any aspect of what I just covered?" or "Do you know this already?" This gives the receiver a chance to better understand the information and will quickly take you out of the IDU/YDU area.
- Paraphrase their response. When they do respond, paraphrase what you just heard. This will quickly take you out of the YDU end of the spectrum.
Communication is so critical for your success — make sure it is TWO-WAY!
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