When you clearly communicate your vision and objectives to your team, you have certain expectations about the outcome of that communication. Yet, I commonly hear entrepreneurs express concern and confusion over their employees' inability to carry out a plan to the point of meeting, or exceeding, expectations. If this frustration is familiar to you, it may not be because you've chosen the wrong employees, but the wrong approach in communicating with them.
In his recently released book If I Can, You Can: Transformation Made Easy, business coach David Zelman talks about how to communicate so that you are heard--and understood.
"Everyone possesses a unique set of internal conversations," says Zelman. "Outcomes aren't based on what your employees are being told, but what they are telling themselves." In his 40 years of leadership coaching Zelman has learned that everyone's actions are a perfect match to their inner dialogue and correlated to what they are telling themselves, not what others are telling them.
In his book, Zelman offers this example:
If you tell your team that you are slashing the price of an existing product, each person hears something different. Your sales team hears, "Great. More demand, but I'll have to sell more units to make my financial commitment." Customer service hears, "Better staff up for additional client base." And production hears, "How are we going to meet the demand? We are already running at capacity."
"When another person is speaking, we often don't do a good job of distinguishing what the other person is saying versus our interpretation of what they're saying," says Zelman. "In fact, it is uncommon for us to simply hear what is being said. The point is, if you say something to five people, you are most likely having five different conversations."
It is possible to create a shared vision within your organization, and to inspire your team to contribute meaningfully. Here are Zelman's top five suggestions on how to help others transform their inner dialogue and dramatically alter the chance of success.
1. Have conversations that are focused on the future, not the past.
Getting people aligned on a vision or common purpose is one of the primary roles of a leader. Too many conversations revolve around explaining or justifying why something did or did not get done. This is a waste of time and energy. The past is behind us. Build a practice of focusing on the future, of what needs to happen to achieve the vision and goals. And always establish timeframes in which goals will be achieved.
2. Instead of issuing directives, have a dialog.
By having employees participate in a dialog that creates goals, strategy, and timeframes, you are encouraging them to have a higher level of ownership of the corporate objectives. Create a collaborative culture and people will assume responsibility willingly.
3. Don't assume you have been heard.
Communication requires both speaking and listening. The excuse, "It's not my fault; I told them what I wanted," just doesn't cut it. Unless you ask for feedback, such as, "What's your interpretation of what I just said?" there is too much room for misunderstanding.
4. Create a culture of authentic communication.
While transparency and inclusiveness are important variables in establishing effective communication, maintaining integrity in communications is even more so. Organizations must build a culture where people are authentically committed to what they say. A promise is a promise. A commitment is a commitment.
5. Acknowledge and appreciate good work.
When people are recognized and acknowledged for their contribution, they are more likely to continue to create value in the organization. If you stop acknowledging people, they lose their sense of belonging and making a difference.
Leaders who succeed in sustaining effective communication throughout their organization build high-performing teams and thriving companies. How do you achieve your best results?