I was speaking to a business owner last week and he relayed a big frustration to me, “I cannot seem to get my team to do what I want them to do. I know what I want them to do, but then it gets lost between my brain and my mouth. I end up frustrated because they are not doing what I want them to do, and they are frustrated because they don’t know what is expected of them. How do I solve this?”

There are two main steps in addresses this challenge.

First, look at the message that you are delivering.

  • Plan your message. This can be as simple as writing the goal of the conversation on a 3×5 card, then outlining the points that you want to make. Remember to include WHAT will they do, WHY this is important for them, WHY this is important for the company, WHEN they must do it by, and HOW they will do it.
  • Tailor the message to the audience. You will need more instructions for new team members and fewer for those who have worked with you for a while. Also, realize that some people just need more instructions than others! Remember that common sense is not common practice so if a particular step is important to do include it in the communication!
  • State your intent. Make sure that your purpose is in your very first sentence. For example, “John, I want to show you how to handle a customer that has a complaint”.
  • Control your tone, volume, pitch, and facial and body expressions. Modulate your voice so that it sounds pleasing to you. Ask yourself, “How is what I’m saying coming through?” We convey a great percentage of our message in our body language and tone of voice, so be aware of what you are doing!
  • Try not to repeat. The message will be more effective if condensed and avoid speaking for more than a minute at a time. If the message is complicated or long then write it down or ask the person you’re communicating to, to take notes. If the task involves using a machine or computer program they can video you showing them on the phone so that they have a reference to go back to.

Second, get feedback to make sure that the listener understands the message. Do this by asking open-ended questions that start with “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Where”, and “How”. A common mistake is to use closed-ended questions such as “Do you understand?” Of course, the answer will be “Yes” to that one! Instead, ask some great feedback questions such as:

    *     “Would you explain what you have heard me say?”
    *     “What are you hearing is important to me?”
    *     “If you did this, what do you think the response of the customer would be?”
    *     “What’s your next step based on our conversation?”

If you are delegating a task, ask feedback questions such as:

    *    “What do you plan to do first?”
    *    “How will you determine the quality of your work?”
    *    “How will you know when you have achieved that goal?”

Bottom line….if you take the time to deliver a high-quality message and then get the feedback of your team members, you will quickly discover that you are getting the responses that you desire. Remember, “Communication is the Response You Get!”


ActionCOACH Kerry Helen Burns

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