Our communication efforts are worth the time and mental energy they take. It’s how we impact the world, our homes, and our work.
No matter if we’re communicating with mentors, teachers, suppliers, distributors, customers, friends, colleagues, or even neighbors, we all find ourselves in situations in which we share, and in which we receive. When we sow, and when we reap.
Clear communication is especially significant when supporting a team collaborating on a project.
But why is communicating so worthy of our attention?
With Michael Hyatt’s input, I created an email template that states clearly what I want a team member to do, including why it’s necessary and what success looks like. Sometimes, I can complete a task myself within the time it takes to write the short email, but that would be management, not leadership.
When a team I worked on hired a Project Coordinator who recently graduated college, it was apparent that her theoretical knowledge and academic experience of project management didn’t really prepare her for the actual project environment most of us operate in.
The first time I sent one of these “task” emails, she immediately hopped on the phone to thank me for being so clear, and she wanted to be sure she understood the task.
Yes, yes, yes were my responses, because my communication had been so clear she understood exactly what was expected. She completed the task a week later, a day before its due date, and I had what I needed without any extra thought, worry, concern, back-and-forth, corrections, or having to redo it myself.
This story is now embarrassing. It wasn’t at the time, because I was clueless.
Toward the end of my college career in central London, a bunch of us went out for dinner one chilly night to celebrate something, which wasn’t unusual, but that’s not what this story is about. By that time, I was established in the UK as a young up-and-coming conductor, and I often produced my own concerts.
A cellist at our long table was drinking water and wasn’t eating, and it turned out she couldn’t afford it. I offered to pay for her so she could join in the celebration with the rest of us. As we all walked out of the restaurant later, she sidled up to me, put her arm through mine, and thanked me and promised to pay me back soon enough. With sufficient experience treating fellow music students to a meal, I was doubtful that was going to happen. So, with a self-produced concert coming up soon, for which I needed another cello player, I quite naively said, “That’s OK. There are other ways you can repay me.” What?!
My communication wasn’t clear.
We were not speaking the same language.
She thought I had something else in mind, something that my innocent need and intention hadn’t considered – even though this is the guy who at 15 years of age in the mid ’80s was walking along the pre-revived 42nd Street in New York City, constantly prospected by drug dealers and prostitutes! I guess my ‘escape’ from those experiences was to laser-focus on making music, not love.
I could have avoided her shock and embarrassment, and I could have contracted a cellist for free, had I been clear in my communication and responded honestly with something about needing a cellist for my upcoming concert.
We live and learn, hopefully.
It was also around that time that I realized uncommon outcomes were achievable by teams who communicate well.
As a fan of the “You Pick 2: Fast, Good, or Cheap” approach to anything, I’m constantly looking for Good plus one of the others.
This happened during our response to the isolation era of early 2020. The charitable organization I ran at the time still needed to pay bills and earn income even though our concerts were canceled, and concerts were our primary source of income then. Several of our regular activities adapted and shifted online (rehearsals became repertoire workshops), but we didn’t charge for them. We decided to have a dedicated online fundraising event.
What would that look like? Who would do what? How do you make that happen?
I prepared the project charter and management plan, issued multiple email task templates, and because everyone was speaking the same language and knew what the outcome expectations were, we actually earned more money in that 3-hour event than we ever had at any of our live, in-person concerts in the previous six years!
Taking the time and putting in the mental energy to make our communications clear is absolutely worth it. Things get done, disagreements occur without arguments, and people are generally satisfied with their collaborative work. I can also tell you that data shows that clear communication reduces turnover, too.
I wonder if our Western World would be in such a dysfunctional, spiteful and polarized state if we communicated with each other more clearly.
Perhaps the forced isolation that much of Western culture experienced in the early 2020s had more of an impact on the way we communicate with each other than we’ve realized so far…
Do you have a “clear communication” experience? I’d like to hear about it. Send me a message here.