Last week I discussed effective communication and how to communicate effectively. This week, I will go into a bit more detail on communication, and discuss how to delight your clients, customers, and team through effective communication.
Effective communication is communicating in a way that enables the recipient of the message (listener) to clearly understand what is being stated.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it isn’t, but it can be! Communicating can be done effectively following a few steps.
1. Understand how the listener communicates
Effective communication is based on the recipient understanding the message, so the first step would be to figure out how the recipient (client, customer, team member, etc.) communicates best, or how they prefer to communicate. Some prefer email while others prefer text, phone, or face-to-face communication. Some prefer charts, graphs, or pictures while other prefer videos and others prefer simple text.
This is important to recognize. For example, if you are trying to communicate to someone by email but they are rarely on email, you may never actually get the message through! If you are calling and leaving voicemails with no response, maybe that person does not like to talk on the phone. Provide a text document to someone who prefers pictures, and your document will likely not be read.
2. Establish a common language
Each industry has their own acronyms, jargon, methods, and so on. If you are communicating to others in the same industry, you likely have a common language to some degree. However, even the different departments within a given organization will have different language that may not be easily understood by another department. Better yet, try speaking to another department in a different organization from another industry – good luck!
But we can make this easier. Spend some time to learn some of the common jargon and acronyms used. If something is said or written that you do not understand, then ask for clarification. Conversely, if you are going to use jargon, then explain what it means the first time you use it so the recipient has something to reference. Over time, both sides will gain a better understanding of each other and establish a more common language.
3. Establish frequency and response time
Some people love to text all day long, others email several times a day, while others live on their phone. Establish an expectation of how frequent and fast communication needs to occur.
Why is this important?
Say you and I are working together, and I expect a response in a few hours and daily responses at a minimum, but you are ok with 24-48 responses. If I email you at 9:00 am, I would expect a response by 11:00 or 12:00. If I don’t see anything, then I may begin to feel ignored and then follow up with another email, phone call, text, and so on. If that happens, you are going to begin thinking I am hounding you since you don’t expect to respond for another day or so. Now, we are both frustrated.
4. Determine length
Have you ever received an email response back with a simple response of “TLDNR”?
What does that mean, you ask? Too long did not read! Ha!
Determine the optimal length of the message (verbal or written) and do not go past it unless you must. Emails that could easily be published as books generally do not get read. A 6 minute voicemail will be deleted without being heard. Also, if someone expects a detailed response, and they receive succinct bullet points with little explanation, you are likely going to receive more questions than you would like to answer – especially if it is from your boss!
5. Consistency and flow
Communicating consistently helps the recipient anticipate how or what will be said. Establish a style that fits your personality and meets the need of the recipient. This helps reduce the follow-up questions as the format and style are expected and are easily followed.
Similarly, develop a fluid way of communicating. Don’t bounce around from topic to topic confusing the subject. Make it easy to follow what is being said, written, or displayed.
So, the steps are:
How do you delight your client, customer, or team?
I’m glad you asked!
Once you figure out how they communicate, using a shared language, as frequent as expected, with enough detail, consistently, do just that. Just know that it takes time. Most people do not take the time or pay enough attention to learn these steps. Don’t let that be you!
Too easy you think! I told you effective communication is easy (well, it sounds easy). The challenging part is figuring it all out and actually use it! You married couples out there know what I’m talking about here! But once you figure it out, and use it, you will surely delight all whom you communicate with – your clients, customers, and team.
Until next time.
“You change for two reasons: Either you learn enough that you want to, or you’ve been hurt enough that you have to.” - Unknown
Change is tough. For anyone. It comes in the many forms and may be a personal choice or imposed upon you. Change often appears as bad such as a layoff from a long-term job or falling out of a friendship. But change can also be good, or needed, even if you did not ask for it. It really depends on how you handle the change and what you learn from it.
You see, most people do the same thing because “that’s just the way we have always done it”. Have you ever heard that? The why fix it if it’s not broken mentality only goes so far. Of course, when it comes down to priorities, if it is not hurting, then let it be. But, just because it is not hurting, does not mean it is helping – whatever the “it” is.
Following a process or procedure that adds several layers of complexity for no apparent reason may not directly be hurting anything or anyone, but it certainly is not helping. Yet, because someone 10 years ago, who is no longer with the organization, decided it was a good way of doing things, the process remained.
The premise applies to leadership. What may have worked to get you to a certain position within your organization or in life, does not mean doing the same will take you further. Leading a small team of 4-6, you can be very close to each member, know the names of their pets, spend holidays with them, go to their kids’ birthdays, and so on. What happens when you grow to 25 people? Or, what if you have been the micro-managing leader that wants to know every nuance of every detail and nitpicks every issue? It will be impossible to do the same with a group of 25 as you did with 4.
This is the change that is needed in order to grow as an individual, a leader, and to help your team grow as well. There is a book titled, What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith, that discusses this concept, focusing on leadership principles. I highly recommend reading it if you have not already.
So what happens when something bad happens to you, such as that layoff of falling out? It really depends on how you handle it. For many, the layoff is a blow to their ego, which can be quite painful. Many people simply do not have the savings available to sustain themselves while looking for work. Others, it is blow to their confidence. Still, it can be an opportunity to find a new passion in life, the start of a new adventure, the push needed to write that book you have always wanted. Change is difficult, but it really is what you make of it. Change is what makes you – us all – grow.
Jared W. Snow
Servant leaders emphasize others before themselves – to include the organization. The servant leader places the needs, motivations, aspirations, and desires of others before meeting their own needs. For example, say an organization is offering a bonus or training opportunity. The servant leader would have their employee (or peer) receive the bonus or training prior to receiving it themselves.
The leader to organization relationship occurs when the servant leader places the organization before their own personal agenda. The servant leader could demand a raise or leave, placing the organization in a position to lose revenue (assuming here that this would place the organization into a negative position) or lose an employee. The servant leader sacrifices personal gain for the betterment of the organization.
These examples seem simple and straightforward, yet they often lead to resentment on that of the leader attempting a posture of servanthood. Continuous self-sacrifice tends to make some resent their good intentions when left unaddressed over a long period of time. How does one correct this?
Well, it takes a leader that is aware of their surroundings and team, to be cognizant of their peer or subordinate leaders, and ensure that all team members (and the organization) have their needs met. Not only does the servant leader need to ensure the needs of others are met, they need to ensure their needs are met as well. If left unattended, it may take outside influence from other leaders to ensure all needs are met. Still, some thrive on a life of servanthood – Mother Theresa for instance. Most of us cannot sacrifice so much for too long, yet there are times where it is essential for the development and growth of others, including our organization.
Who do you serve first? Yourself, your organization, others?
Jared W. Snow
Goal development is an integral component for personal, professional, and organizational success. Goals drive direction to produce a result. Without a goal it is impossible to know where you are going. It would be like getting into your car and driving without a destination; there is no point in doing so. Now, my wife used to get into her car and just drive without a destination. But in this case, she just wanted to get out on her own and just think. The goal was not the destination, rather the opportunity to process her thoughts.
Have you ever heard someone say that they do not create goals, that way they cannot fail? Maybe even you have said this. The idea is, without a goal there is no chance of failing since there is no targeted result. This is a “wing it” type of lackadaisical attitude towards achieving something. This attitude is often aimed at some form of personal development preceded by a past failure.
The reality is most people create goals (sometimes subconsciously) to accomplish something. “I am not going to do anything today” is still a goal, with the result of accomplishing nothing. People with the idea of “no goal making for me” or often referring to a stretch goal such as a college degree or losing a few pounds. In the work place, this could be increasing sales by 10% each quarter, taking on a new routine task, or improving a process and reducing paper usage.
So we know goals are important, but what is a good goal to set and how is it developed? The acronym SMART has been used to help guide the goal development process. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. The SMART process is a great way to clearly identify the goal, how to know when it has been achieved, and some important characteristics of the goal.
Let’s define SMART
A goal must be as specific as possible. Instead of losing weight or increasing sales, you want to lose 15 pounds in 3 months by going to the gym 3 times per week or increase sales by 10% in 45 days by contacting 10 more potential clients per week. Some goals are a bit more challenging to specify, but the more clear the desired result is, the easier it will be to monitor and assess. Answer the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) to help the goal become more specific.
A goal must be measured otherwise it is impossible to identify if progress is being made or when the goal is achieved. Measuring progress becomes some level of accountability and helps you remain focused on what is important. A measureable goal includes how many or how much and identifies what success looks like. The goal to lose 15 pounds in 3 months could be measured by checking weight loss each month and tracking the frequency of working out. Success looks like 15 pounds lost in 3 months.
A goal must stretch the individual or organization enough to make them work hard, but not so far as to cause unnecessary stress and strain. The goal should be just out of “arms reach.” Too far out and the goal is not likely attainable but too close and the goal will not stretch the individual or organization. An easy goal for someone in sales may be an increase of 10%, a stretch goal may be 25%, and an unattainable goal may be 50%. It is up to the individual or organization to determine what is just out of arms reach. The purpose of a goal is to stretch the individual or organization. This could require more time, training, finances, or a change of attitude.
A goal must be relevant to the person, project, or organizations mission. For example, if an organizations objective is to reduce paper usage across the state by 50% in the next fiscal year, an appropriate goal would be to develop an automated workflow to create and process PDF forms instead of printed forms and increase registered users by 2,000 each quarter.
Additionally, they must be relevant to the individual or organizational conditions. Using the same paper reduction example above, if the cost to become a registered user exceeds the budget of their target audience, then the goal of 2,000 users might not be relevant (or realistic, another “R” word used in the SMART acronym).
A goal must have a suspense. A suspense is the benchmark for which success can be assessed. A lack of a suspense results in a lack of urgency and potential failure.
To wrap it up
Whether you are looking to lose a few pounds, increase sales, or reduce your paper use, a goal may be simple or complex, long in duration or brief, involve an individual or organization. The most important fact to realize is that goals are meant to be achieved.
Jared W. Snow
Have you have been told “don’t drop the ball” or perhaps you have told someone else not to? While most understand the expression, it is often difficult to keep the intent while juggling many balls. What types of “balls” are you maintaining: school, work, hobbies, sports coach, kids, kids homework, yard work… the list goes on. So how do you successfully maintain the mentality of “don’t drop the ball” while maintaining your sanity? Most don’t, at least not very well.
So how do you actually manage all of your tasks and maintain your sanity? I propose that we evaluate what types of balls we are dealing with, and choose which we can actually drop. An expanded version of the “don’t drop the ball” saying is to categorize them as rubber, metal, or glass.
A rubber ball
A rubber ball item is something that if dropped, will bounce back with little to no repercussions. You can delay these tasks without anyone really knowing or caring. These are easy to pick up and keep moving along as if nothing really happened. This could be a task you give yourself such as mowing the lawn or organizing email. You are likely the only one to really notice if it is done or not.
A metal ball
A metal ball item is something that you could drop, it will get noticed, but really isn’t that consequential. Metal balls are heavy so they will take extra effort to get on schedule and completed on time. Drop a metal ball only if needed and only if you have the time and resources (personnel or money) to invest and get the ball back on track. This could be a reoccurring task such as approving organizational purchases. If ignored for a few days, nobody will really notice but your workload will increase when you get around to catching up.
A glass ball
A glass ball item is something that you cannot drop. If you do, the ball will shatter and cannot be put back together. You will need to start the task over and will likely face consequences. This could be something assigned to you by your boss such as a major report due or paying your mortgage – you just cannot afford to be late.
Only you will be able to identify if you are dealing with a rubber, metal, or glass ball. Evaluate your situation, identify the ball you are dealing with, and handle it accordingly. Just keep in mind how many you can actually handle at once without becoming overwhelmed or unproductive.
Jared W. Snow