Recently I read a blog post written by Kirk Hazlett, an Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. He began with this quote: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” This attributed to Robert McCloskey, an author and illustrator of children’s books.
In working extensively with business leaders in my capacity as a certified coach, the lack of effective communication is way up there on the list of things that create the gap between the dream of achievement for the organization and the reality of individual and collective performance. How many times have you asked or been asked “do you have any questions?’ following a conversation in which a plan of action was laid out along with the steps that needed to be taken. And how many times have you said or heard “no” after which the meeting/conversation was over? And finally, have you then come to realize that someone who had no questions because they understood (remember the “no” answer) was going down a path that was different than had been defined for them … thus the wrong path? I’m going to guess your answer is likely to be yes as it’s something most of us have done at one time or another.
Addressing this is extremely important while quite basic and simple. In communicating there is always a speaker and a listener. The speaker has a good idea of what they want to convey and sets out to do so. Their listener is paying attention and may even be taking some notes. And yet, as simple as this seems it can go awry in two ways. On the speaker side, as clearly as they know what they want to convey, it is no guarantee that it comes out in conversation with the same clarity. On the listener side, the words are heard and still there is room for that person to interpret them in what seems to be the logical and right way. There is one clear way to uncover any misunderstanding. The listener simply repeats what they got from the conversation. If it’s completely correct … Bingo. If only partially correct, the speaker gets to rephrase the misunderstood portion so that they know both parties are aligned and together in what has to take place next. And the best part is that checking for understanding and clarity can emanate from either person as in “please repeat” or “let me repeat”.
One major source of wasted dollars in most every organization is the cost of re-work often caused by this kind of misunderstanding. It safe to say it’s unintended and yet still happens too often. Knowing that people are going away from a conversation in sync with what others know needs to happen is the kind of efficiency that is especially needed in today’s recovering businesses. Passing along this easy and simple communication tool is something we do in almost every organization in which we work. Try it and I expect that you’ll soon become aware of both how easy and effective it is in speeding desired results. I’d really like to hear of your success!