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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Clarity NOT Charity

Communication is one of the most important skills an executive or an entrepreneur needs, especially when it comes to running a startup with a highly focused and skilled team.  The spoken words must convey the clarity and specificity needed to get what you want done completed.  Clarity is especially needed in making the value proposition for your startup.  In an effort to not offend others, words are used in less than clear terms. The explanations being something like “I was being politically correct.   To that, I say:

“Guess what, I did not understand what you wanted or why it needed to be done. Your sense of urgency was completely lost on me. Now, I am off doing something that I thought you said you wanted and we just lost time and money.  Oh yes, and guess what, the problems you had are not solved because I was not working on them.”

I have become a strong believer of being more direct.  This may not be taken as a pleasing experience when communicating with others, but hopefully they will understand what is being said.  Even with being direct, the meaning and instructions can get lost.  This is one of the most difficult issues a manager can face when trying to lay out strategy, correct personnel issues, communicate the value proposition to an investor, and many other situations.

There are a few things that may help to ensure the message is relayed properly and the other side gets it.  Here are just a few:

·        Follow up with a written description of what you want.  Sometimes a person seeing it written down will take the meaning a bit different than hearing a verbal description.  They may also remember it better.

·        Have the person repeat back to what they think you wanted.  When the person repeats what was expected and it is clear, you have a better idea that you communicated your point.  It may still be a good idea to have a written follow up to ensure memory of what was expected.

·        Spend time explaining why you made the request.  If appropriate, having a rationale stated to the other side can help put the issues in perspective.  Bringing the other side to a level of understanding the problem may get you two things; 1) they may have other ideas on the way to resolve the issues, and 2) they may better be able to address your concerns and accomplish what you really want.

·        Make sure the words you use relay what you really need. You may be asking someone to help resolve an issue.  The description of the issue may relate to a different set of problems than the one you want resolved, resulting in a person trying to solve a different but real problem rather than the one you sent them to deal with.

·        Ask if there are any questions.  This at least allows the other side to recognize the instructions can be questioned and clarified if they were not understood.

·        Monitor the progress.  If you walk away and do not monitor, the other side will proceed and you may not catch the error in communication until far too late.  Monitoring progress regularly will help you set things on the correct path more quickly and save time and frustration.