4 Charlesview Road, Suite 4, Hopedale, MA 01747
(508) 422-0231 Consulting Services
(508) 422-0233 Account Matters
…….and the solution is COMMUNICATE!
How many times have you heard that the solution to most of your problems is communication? You know, talking, conversing, speaking, exchanging words, being in touch, writing and so on. Probably more than you care to say. I’ll go so far as to say many of you are sick of hearing it – ahh, even though you know it to be true. So although you hear it and in fact believe it, why do you still have trouble communicating? The simple answer is that we don’t know how to effectively communicate in certain circumstances; in a way that gets attention or results and this, more than anything else, affects your business success the most.
There are many ways to communicate and we are great at many, but not all and it’s the ones we are not good at that usually get us into some kind of quandary. Let’s take a look at some methods of communications that can cause problems when running a business.
Confrontation – a situation has come up where you have to speak with your partner, manager, employee or other business associate but once again you just can’t seem to find the time, it’s just not a good day or perhaps you are thinking – are things really on a slippery slope and if you don’t address it will things really get worse and in fact really hurt the company? Hmm. On the other hand if you address the problem head on you might be thinking what if he/she blows up or quits or makes the working environment just plain awful? What will I do?
Overbearing – you need to ask a question about the A/R to your biller/collector but instead of asking him/her you tell him/her what the problem is and then let loose as to what they had better do to make it right and then leave. (Have a nice day.) Seems you handle many problems this way and then get more frustrated when things don’t change. The employee(s) are used to your outbursts and are likely not to even really hear what you say.
Controlling – you put people in place to do a job, make it clear what your expectations are and then hover over them controlling their every move. Whenever you can run to someone to let them know of something not done just perfect you do. You leave no room for an answer or give them time to explain why; you just want to be sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s almost as though you take a myopic view of your business instead of a broad view. While little things can add up to big things there are times when you have to let things play out a little and give employees the opportunity to find and finish their job and correct their own errors. You can use your information to discuss new strategies for avoiding errors at meetings. This is not to say that if a serious situation arises you ignore it, no you address that immediately.
Silence or Ignoring the issue – There are things that are not going well and you know it but you continue to drop hints hoping someone will catch on but the last thing you are going to do is speak out loud about it. Maybe if you ignore it and say nothing it will go away. Not likely. When employees recognize your weakness they will tell you what you want to hear knowing you will not go any further. This goes hand and hand with the confrontation problem. This is when many serious things happen in the business including fraud and embezzlement and a particular phrase I often hear is “I had no idea".
Procrastination – Do these answers sound familiar? “Let’s handle that tomorrow” or “I have to think about it a bit more” or “that’s on my list for today and I’ll get back to you”. How about a follow–up of “I didn’t know it was due today” or “Why didn’t you tell me?” or, “I thought you were going to handle that”. And finally, the meeting where you say “We can’t continue to miss deadlines”. Procrastination holds back your ability to be ahead of the game, to move and strike before anyone else. By the time you “get to it later” many have already “been there and done that” and you are not so “ahead of the curve".
E-mailing and other written communication – Do you sometimes get email or other written communication, read and react immediately with written words that when you calm down and reread it or have time to digest it realize that you reacted too quickly and your response was inappropriate? What you should have done is put it away until your emotions were in check and you could take another look at it in a different frame of mind. You could have then acted on it with a clear mind, making sound decisions and thus control the situation.
Can you find yourself in any of the above communication situations? If you do then you may now see how your communication style may have affected or been the cause of unpleasant outcomes. Your reactions and tone, verbal or written, can bring you down, upset operations and cause you to lose staff and control of your business which in the long run costs you money.
To become a better communicator you have to identify your communication problem and look at some of the outcomes you have experienced as a result of your behavior. If you have trouble identifying your problem, ask someone close to you that will tell it like it is. What we are looking for here is a way to make you a better communicator.
Here are some things to consider when working on improving your communications skills.
Set location and ground rules for yourself and others. Where you meet with a person or a group is vital to obtaining successful results. Pick a date and time when you have nothing else planned. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Based on what you will be addressing don’t go beyond a reasonable length of time. Your meeting could be from 5 minutes to an hour or more but that is your call – the time you set is for making decisions on the problems at hand not on other things that take up time but don’t get you where you want to go. Be on time and make sure there are NO interruptions, no phones, texts, etc. by anyone including you.
Be a leader and confront people straight on. Ask direct questions – don’t beat around the bush or try to ask in a way that you hope they will understand. Don’t insinuate anything other than you know there is a problem and this meeting is to address that or those issues- period. Once you ask the question – ask if they clearly understand your point. If you are teleconferencing or writing an email do the same – be sure your questions are direct and ask that the respondent to let you know if they are clear about what you are asking.
Don’t be accusatory – the fact may be that you have something to do with the situation that you are unaware of. Eliminate the accusatory tone – everyone gets that one – written or verbal - and all it gets you is retribution one way or another. It doesn’t solve the problems at hand. As my mother used to say, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it”. Present the problem and the way things are currently being handled that you see problematic. Convey what has to happen in order to reach the goal – no matter how big or small. Make it understood you will be there to help.
Listen – get all those preconceived notions that you already know the answer out of your head. Listen to what is being said but keep the discussion focused. Don’t get distracted with other stories that will take away from the real reason you are there. STAY FOCUSED. Most people are defensive – fine, but that’s not what solves the problem or gets you where you want to be. Listen to rebuttals, and be prepared to take responsibility for your being part of the problem - but don’t give in and take it all. Hold others accountable for their actions.
In this “I’m so busy” world, do yourself a favor and remember it’s your business and you are ultimately responsible for bottom line decisions so – stop, listen, assess and decide. The longer you wait to confront, hold yourself and others accountable and make timely decisions, leaves time for others who are also “busy” to move ahead of you.
Diane McCutcheon, President
DM Business Management Consulting Services, Inc.
Account Matters – Billing & Collection Services
4 Charlesview Road, Suite 4
Hopedale, MA 01747
P: 508-422-0231 F: 508-422-0234