I was coaching a business leader who had problems getting his points across.

“I don’t understand it,” he vented his frustration, “I gave my team all what they needed to know and told them what to do, but there were times I got wrong reports, missed deadlines, and stalled projects. What’s wrong with those people? Weren’t they paying attention to what I was saying?”

I had to gently remind him that in this coaching conversation, we were working on him, not on other people. So I probed, “What do you think you can do differently?”

It took a while, but he grew to realize that just because he was speaking, he assumed that he was understood. This illustrated the difference between information and communication.

I love what journalist Sydney L. Harris said, “Information is giving out and communication is getting through.” Too many times, we know what we mean but forget that the other person does not know what we mean (unless, of course, he’s a mind-reading Professor X).

The business leader became aware that although he was giving out data, timetables, and directives, he was not getting through as to the goals, priorities and expectations.

A 360 on him revealed that sometimes he was ambiguous (“Boss, do you mean that I follow up with John or wait for him to update me?”) and inconsistent (“But boss, yesterday you told me to prioritize A. Now you’re telling me to finish B first”).

Worst, he relied heavily on a Viber chat group, where his staff could not tell his vocal tone or body language. Sometimes, his words came across as abrasive or dismissive, which sunk morale. For this, the leader came to learn the difference between intent and impact.

Once the leader focused on communicating – not merely spouting facts or barking orders – did the office run more efficiently. Among his new-found techniques were:

·        Talking to them face-to-face as much as possible
·        Asking the listener if he needed to clarify some details
·        Being mindful of potentially ambiguous words… and gestures
·        Taking responsibility for the confusion, rather than blame-shifting on the listener
·        Welcoming questions and feedback from his staff

Do you want to be a clearer communicator? Take it from the business leader: it is not what is said; it is what is understood.

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