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Talk me through…

September 28, 2011

Communication is tricky.  As a manager, we’re often delegating projects.  We run through the tasks required, toss off the desired result, receive a “Got it – no prob” with a confident wave or perhaps a more hesitant “OK” and a tentative nod.  And off we go to the next fire… until the deadline arrives, and the project isn’t finished or the result is far from the expected outcome.  And we’re left wondering where the disconnect occurred…

I recently experienced this with a project where I literally hand drew the flow chart to be completed for the project – and yet, I received a completely different flow chart as the deliverable.  As you can imagine, it was very frustrating.  However, taking a step back, I had to acknowledge that as the manager, responsibility for the communication failure lay with me.  I didn’t ensure that the required tasks and desired outcome were fully understood – I just ran through the instructions.  So the next time I assigned a project to that person, I took a different approach.

As usual, I ran through the tasks and the expected results.  But this time, I didn’t stop there.  I took a “talk me through” approach.  First, I asked if they understood the requirements – as expected, the response was “yes”.  Then I asked them to explain the requirements to me as they understood them – in detail.  I filled in and adjusted where needed, having them review any changes to their understanding to confirm that we were on the same page.  Basically, I had them “talk me through” the requirements I had just given them in their own words – it’s a bit more time invested up front, but it results in clearer comprehension and deliverables that better match your expectations.  And that’s a win for everyone involved.

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