Have you ever wished you could eliminate miscommunication in your business? I have. When miscommunication rears its head, failure tends to follow. This can include screw-ups like building the wrong thing for a client, setting incorrect expectations which lead to a missed deadline, or one of your team members wasting time doing work that isn’t want you were asking for in the first place. I’m sure you’re thinking of at least one similar incident from your own business! No matter how carefully you try to go over things, miscommunications are inevitable. Or are they?
A simple habit can eliminate miscommunication
Believe it or not, there’s one simple habit that can virtually eliminate miscommunication. If you coach your team to adopt it, the quality of your company’s communication will elevate substantially. I’d suggest adopting it yourself so you can model it for them! Ready for it?
The habit is confirmation and it’s a tremendously powerful communication tool. After you finish speaking, coach your team to take a moment to confirm back what they heard you say. The easiest way to do this is something along the lines of “I’d like to check in and make sure I’m understanding you correctly. Is it okay if I confirm back to you what I heard?”
This habit works equally well communicating within your company with team members and outside of your company with customers and vendors. For the purposes of this article, I’m using the example of leader to team member internal communication.
Why does this eliminate miscommunication?
There’s a lot of reasons. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The obvious reason is that it gives you a chance to correct any differences between what was heard and what you were trying to communicate. That course correction is invaluable and you can repeat the process as many times as necessary until you’re both confident the message is clear on both sides.
- When you’re the boss, your team members want to avoid looking dumb in your eyes; they want you to think they’re smart! Sometimes this leads to the error of pretending they understand when they don’t. No one wants to be caught asking a stupid question, especially not of the person who will determine their next raise or future employment! This leads many people to opt for silence. A confirmation question, especially one you’ve coached them to ask, will help them engage in clarification they may have otherwise foregone. You can always prompt someone to confirm, as well: “Would you do me a favor and review back the most important points of what you heard so we can be sure we’re on the same page?”
- Our brains move faster than our mouths or ears, so as you speak to someone they’re listening but also planning what they’re going to say next, filling in gaps with assumptions based on their experiences, and coping with distractions. Speaking however, requires just about 100% of their focus. Going through the process of confirming back what was heard forces all the extraneous noise out of their head and zeroes in their focus on what is most important.
Every boss in the world has experienced assigning a project to one of their team members, watching that person walk out of their office, and then sitting there crossing their fingers that what they communicated was heard properly. Having your company adopt a confirmation based communication style will give you a huge sense of relief, customers will appreciate it, and it will go a long way toward eliminating miscommunication in your company.