Communication – it’s not you, it’s me
I often work with managers who have challenges with members of their team, where they feel like they are pulling your hair out. Typically, you have had a team meeting, delegated tasks to each member and move on. When the tasks have been completed and you are notified you realise that things aren’t as they should be.
The work delivered is not to the standard you expect.
Some of it is missing.
It is not what you described or what you asked for
You feel frustrated.
You feel deflated.
You feel angry.
What has happened?
Well we know what has not happened! Right? Your request has not been fulfilled.
Why has this happened?
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Barnard Shaw
Does this ring true for you?
Well there may be many reasons why this has happened or not happened as the case may be. Here is some useful advice to avoid or at least eliminate the possibility of this happening in the future.
In the first instance, we are dealing with people, so let’s understand that everyone has different abilities and are at different stages of learning and that life is happening outside work, so they may be distracted by other priorities.
- Know your own preferred predominant learning style. There are 3 learning styles, visual, auditory and kinesthetic. We tend to communicate in our own preferred learning style subconsciously. Knowing your own style will enhance how you learn, work and relate to others.
- Know your teams preferred predominant learning style. An invaluable learning, I had many years ago when I was managing a team. I recall, one member of the team whom I had spent time with, describing in detail what I wanted and felt confident that he had understood. When it came to him delivering the task, I was in a state of shock as it was nothing like I had described and he had spent quiet some time on the task. What I now know is that I described the task (auditory), his predominant preferred style was visual, so after this realisation, I was able to communicate with him in a visual way and show him what I meant and how I wanted it to look which resulted in him delivering what I was looking for second time round, because I communicated to him in a way that worked best for him.
- Check that the individual has heard and understood the request and is clear on what is expected from them. Ask them to repeat it back to you. This can be powerful as in hearing it, both you and the individual can identify any gaps or clarify any points of the request.
- If you find yourself repeating something for the nth time to the same person and it takes place in a conversation. I suggest you ask them to take notes, so they can reference it in the future. It may even be useful to create a ‘how to’ document or checklist that can be shared with the team.
- Finally, last but by no means least be aware of your tone. I often find our children are our best teachers. One day I was busy making dinner and my 4-year-old kept persisting with 101 questions and my tone changed as I was under pressure to get things ready on time. It wasn’t until I heard her unchanged tone full of enthusiasm in her communication as she continued with her line of questioning that I realised that tone is not always heard (definitely not by a 4 year old!), so if you are dealing with someone and their tone is ‘a bit off’ or maybe yours is, just be mindful that they may not be aware of it and often people are not aware of their tone however are very aware of your tone!
Communication is a bit of a minefield, but I think being open about your intention, be clear in your message and never be afraid to ask questions to gain clarity or a better understanding.
If you have recently stepped into a management role and are finding it challenging and would like support, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how I can help you.
Geraldine is an executive coach, NLP practitioner, trainer, facilitator and specialises in supporting working parents through transitions in the workplace, be it transitioning back to the workplace following maternity leave or long-term absence or stepping into a promotion.