The art of communications in the world of 140 characters is creating a very large and dangerous gap in our comprehension & understanding of the human interaction. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big believer in the values that social media, texting and building collaborative open forums. What I am talking about is the dangerous landscape of business dealings, from sales and business development, to executive communications to internal staff, internal team meetings, customer and client interactions and negotiations and let’s not forget global communications with partners, customers or business associates. Most all of these communications are driven by (sometimes unspoken) priorities where decision-making is critical for us to put ideas and agreements into action.
When we talk in 140 characters all day long understanding the priorities of the day as they come spilling out of our mouths with all the actions, requests and bullet points in PowerPoint slides outlining critical actions and delegations are simply getting missed. “What did you say?”
The most common issues I see are typically around assumptions. I’ll share 5 of the more common and dangerous ones.
- We assume that everyone cares about what we are presenting. I will ask you to consider… “Why should they care?” It is your job to engage them in why they should care. Help everyone understand their role in your plan and what value they provide. We all want to be valued and we all want to be passionately engeged in our work. Engage everyone.
- We assume many times our plans have no impact on others. This is a very common assumption. Know who your plan impacts and how!
- We assume that life is good! Not always is life good for everyone. Life happens. To be most considerate to your teammates or those you are working with, consider they may be having challenges outside of work. Just be sensitive to this fact and have more compassion for people…. You will find by being more understanding they may find it easier to be open to your ideas.
- We assume we are engaging all of the influencers and decision makers. This one is so common and it is the single failing point of most business development and sales people in getting deals done. (We’ll talk about this more in future posts)
- We assume we have agreement! HOW DO YOU KNOW?
So let’s dive into the last assumption in more detail and talk about 7 tips to over come this one. These tips will also help with the other points above.
Agreement is gained! – Lost in head nodding we believe we got approval or agreement for our ideas when in fact no one really understands what we said. Scenario:
- We are presenting strategic plans and ideas- the receiving team is all nods and smiles but not much is being discussed. In fact, iphones and ipads are all out and in use during the presentation. The team presenting, presents one slide at a time, of the 45 slide deck. They are thorough to review each and every busy power-word packed slide. There is no real interaction on the deck. There are maybe 2 or 3 questions but mostly the room is quiet and nodding heads as people talk.
- The executive leadership walks out of the room saying thank you. The team presenting pats each other on the back. “Must have been good…there were very few questions” they assume that things went well because there were few if any questions.
- The leadership team leaves the room thinking the presentation failed to address the desired growth strategies the company needs and wonders if the team is already looking for a new career path hoping to make it an easy transition. *Both sides assume the other knows what they are thinking. Neither side is considering there was NO connection made with the other side.
Solution to better communications for better outcomes:
- Find and Engage CheerLeaders very early in your planning process! These are your influencers and they will help you all along the way if you draw them in. Find those who will support your plans and presented strategies! Engage them all along the process.*SHARE, ASK, LISTEN, And INCLUDE THEIR FEEDBACK
- Hold review meetings with key constituents and internal champions for your ideas throughout your planning process and certainly before any critical ideas are presented to the group as a whole. Share thoughts on how it may impact, improve or benefit their roles in the company. Consider that your plan of action or new idea may add complexities & additional priorities to their jobs. *HOW CAN YOU RELIEVE SOME OF THESE CONCERNS?
- Identify early on your contrarians. They play a valuable role! Have consistent and engaging dialogue all long the planning process with the contrarians. Know who they are and ask strong and strategic questions like- how might this strategy impact the long-term growth of the company in your view, how might it impact your department, how might it impact your role and you personally? You will be better prepared to ANTICIPATE their issues and keep them drawn in as oppose to losing them.*CONSIDER THEIR VIEWS VS. IGNORE THEM. HOW CAN THESE VIEWS IMPROVE YOUR STRATEGIES?
- Of course the obvious one: When presenting to the room, you check in frequently with those in the room. Ask them questions vs. waiting for them to ask you!
- Become a body language expert! It is not what they say but what is not being said that we want to uncover.
- Check in more frequently with those participating by conference call or video. If this is a very critical decision making meeting then encourage participates to be in person. If this is not possible, take time before the meeting to have discussions and share some of the plans one on one with them to engage with them prior to the group meeting.
- NEVER ASSUME EVERY ONE IS AGREEING WITH YOU… Ask don’t assume! Compromise is your greatest friend. Know going in where the gives and takes are in your plan. Have full discussion around these negotiables and allow other’s input into the final plan. Gain full agreement or next steps before all adjourn so everyone hears the same set of outcomes. Then document in writing to everyone what was agreed to and the next steps.
Over communicate with purpose!