“You’ve got to be more specific in your communication and in your questions.” Recently, I remembered this advice one of my senior managers had given to a project manager who worked for me in Client Services. Their project was failing and the PM didn’t know what she could have done differently. She had asked for status and heard the best possible answers: “On schedule. It’s going along fine.”
And suddenly it wasn’t. Has that happened to you? It seems to happen everywhere:
- You’re self employed working with a web site designer, graphic designer or another independent contractor.
- You’re a parent, asking your child for status on homework or chores.
- You’re working with a client or your internal team on a project.
- And sometimes, even in our relationships.
With my project manager, I believe she was looking for the optimistic, feel good, not to worry answers, so she would believe that things were under control. Didn’t lean into the conversation. Could more easily move onto the next thing. “You need to be more specific” was the senior manager’s advice and that’s what leaning in is about, which means you are deciding that you do want to know the whole truth.
What does “more specific” sound like?
Here are some examples, a mixture of at home/at work possibilities. See if you can hear yourself saying some of these, or something similar. If you can, then you could start practicing in whichever situations are difficult for you.
- Last time we talked you said we were at xyz stage. Is that finished 100% or is there more to do?
- And the next stage is …. what do you need to get started on that.
- How can I help you get clear on ….
- What do you need next? From whom? By when? If you had all of that …. or didn’t have it all by xyz date, then what ?
- What obstacles are you seeing so far … and in the next stage? What might get in the way?
- Let’s get clear before we dive in. Where would you like to be at the end of this call/meeting?
- Help me understand what is next …. [and you need to sincerely be listening to what you hear, looking for details and understanding which can move things forward].
- You said that xyz had to happen before we could move on. Let’s talk through what happens if that does not happen. Then what could we do to keep moving? Are there other possibilities?
And how does that improve communication?
Fewer painful misunderstandings.
Fewer missed deadlines.
Fewer difficult conversations, later in the game when emotions will be at a peak and interfere with the practical, business issue.
A stronger working team. Teams with communication issues and drama are clearly less productive, according to research.
And for you, it means this
Knowing in your gut, heart and soul that you have done everything you can to be clear in the conversation about expectations. You have done your part and done it as well as you know how.
Knowing you have put yourself out there. That’s risky. So when you do it, that’s an amazing feeling!
Knowing you are teaching and/or modeling responsibility to the other person.
Knowing you stepped up and grew; you stretched yourself. It was hard and you did it !
Knowing it will be easier next time!
Be more specific and you’ll be stronger for it.
Organizing your thoughts: If you’re tired of being misunderstood, not being productive, and not getting what you need from conversations, coaching helps you with the situation, your language and often your understanding of other people’s perspectives. It’s not easy. Call 603.554.1948 or email Sue@CoachSueWest.com