One of the challenging aspects of leadership is communicating clearly so your message is not only heard but understood. Most team breakdowns happen because of poor communication. Here are a few tips I have learned over the years to communicate clearly and more effectively when working with teams:
- “Is anyone not ready?” – This is a fantastic phrase to use when you are trying to get a group of people to do anything together. I was first introduced to it while doing first aid training and we were moving people on a stretcher. You can imagine how critical it is to have everyone lifting at once in this situation. When you ask “is everyone ready” the few ‘Yes’s’ you hear usually drown out the one or two ‘No’s’. By asking “is anyone not ready”, you will only hear silence unless someone is not ready.
- Develop your own language– For anyone who has ever taken a rock-climbing course, you will be familiar with the phrase “On Belay – Belay On, Climbing – Climb on”. Climbers have developed this concise way of communicating to make sure their safety systems are in place. They could easily have a conversation saying something like “Hey dude, do you have me? Yeah sure gotcha. I’m going to give’r now. Sounds good”. This is not concise or clear and can easily lead to mistakes. How can you streamline your communication patterns? At the least, you may want to have a few consistent e-mail subject titles to use with your team so they know what to expect.
- Use acronyms – There is a good reason many organizations have a laundry list of unique acronyms. Acronyms not only help us remember technical jargon or long titles but they also allow us to communicate more clearly through shorter and often more direct sentences, as long as everyone understands what the acronym means.
- Wait for complete silence before speaking – I understand it can be a challenge to get people’s attention when trying to address a group but don’t waste your breath taking until you have their attention. If you start talking without having the entire group’s attention, you will only end up repeating what you said and wasting your breath. For a fun way to respectfully get a group’s attention, check out these Large Group Attention Getters designed for the hardest place in the world to get a large group’s attention: Summer Camp.
- One email scheduling – Have you ever had a 10-email chain trying to schedule one meeting or missed a meeting because it didn’t make it into your calendar? With so many good online scheduling tools available, there is no reason meetings can’t be scheduled with just one email. I use a site called Calendly to schedule all my meetings. When scheduling a meeting, I simply send one email that says something like “Please select a time to meet that is convenient for you in my calendar here”. The link takes them to my calendar and only shows times that I have preselected to be available for meetings. Calendly then syncs with my daily calendar and sends email reminders of the appointment.
- How can I help? – Have you ever tried to help someone and they responded with “why did you do that”, clearly oblivious that you were trying to help them? Or perhaps you have people on your team who could clearly use some help but will not ask. Many times, we want to help someone and end up assisting in a way they don’t want or need our help. Other times, you just don’t know how best to help them. In this case, the best thing is to simply ask them “How can I help?”
- Two words – Thank You! – Most times, the best way to receive constructive or positive feedback is by simply saying Thank You! Take the feedback as information and not definition. It is just one person’s opinion and point of view. If you do need clarification on the information or feel the need to explain yourself, it is often best to do that in another interaction or meeting. Taking some time to digest and process the information first allows it to sink in and keeps you from reacting emotionally.
- Paraphrase – When taking the time to explain something important, don’t ask if they understand or “does this make sense”. Those are easy ways for someone with glazed eyes to nod and say “Yes”. Instead, I suggest you get them to explain, in their own words, what they need to do. Get them to paraphrase what you just told them. It may be hard to suggest this without sounding demeaning so an easy way to get them to paraphrase is by asking, “Tell me what you need to do”.
Take your leadership to the next level by implementing some of these simple communication tools. If you have other phrases or techniques for clean and concise communication, please let me know in the comments below.