Progress begins with a basic

    Recently, during a quiet weekend, I received a frantic text from a client whose company I serve as a consultant; it simply read: “Got a 911 matter – call me”. I dropped what I was doing, and sure enough called. It was a pretty urgent matter. A pivotal customer was about to leave because an employee of my client had dropped the ball in a major way. Now what?

    Well, we problem solved and some 12 hours later, the emergency was solved. I have been reflecting on what saved it – and it came down to a basic we sometimes forget - the foundations of a good relationship are built on communication.

    Each month in this Blog, and on our Podcast, in our group coaching platform Mancave, and with my One to One coaching clients, I try and focus on a theme – in June it is Progress – but before we can make progress we have to ensure the basics. So let’s tackle a key element - good relationships are built on communication.

    Hear, don’t just Listen  

    Most of us, especially us guys, are ready to draw conclusions once we’ve got the gist of what someone is saying. We believe “we know” what someone wants or how we can best serve them. We tend to prefer to be "the mechanic", rather than the "service advisor",  we like to "fix it". However, “hearing”, not just “listening” is fundamentally key.  So often as we are “listening”, we are filled with distractions and making our own conclusions on the next best steps. Instead, make sure you aren’t distracted (e.g. by your phone or laptop or by a previous task or just the desire to "get it fixed") while someone else is speaking. Let them know you’re paying attention by asking relevant questions. Ensure you are truly getting the gist by paraphrasing what they are saying. It may take some deliberate practice to do this, but this practice is worth it. A little hearing can go a long way toward making others feel respected and supported. If you haven’t been a good at “hearing” in the past, it’s never too late to begin honing your skills.   

    Be Clear and Concise

    People will be more attentive to you if most of what you’re speaking about is relevant and concise. Be mindful of everyone’s time. Are you looking for feedback or collaboration? Are you presenting something new or reminding them of something past? Having discipline around what you say and how you say it makes engagement more meaningful.  

    Preparation will allow you to be short and to the point.  Be determined that your goals are specific and attainable. Being specific is crucial for healthy relationships and making sure there aren’t miscommunications. If you haven’t clearly communicated your expectations, people will start filling in the blanks themselves and there’s no guarantee they’ll get it right.  

    Don’t Forget About the Goals of Others  

    Sometimes as leaders we have become stellar at hearing and communicating clearly, but we forget about the goals of others. Having this flexibility shows that you want to accommodate their needs, but even more crucial to the long term relationship, that you value them and see their unique personal worth.  Be curious, ask questions, and be attentive to what people are saying and what they are asking for.  

    In the case of my client, he had worked diligently over years with his customer, and on his own skillset, establishing both a good relationship and clear communication patterns. The progress he has made was preparing him for this day. Even a major “fumble in the end zone”, which required some cleaning up, did not call for  a “hail mary”, or a "new strategy", it just required creativity and reminders of a well-established precedent of service.

    Communication isn’t a skill we can just master and move on from. It’s a daily commitment to learning and improving. So often we think "progress", means something new all the time (a constant reinventing), but so often it means beginning with a basic and moving on (making progress) from there.

    Practice won’t make you perfect, but it will make progress.



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