One of the keys to happily achieving is efficiency, and efficiency is built upon a results-oriented approach rather than an action-oriented approach. This was hard for me, as I tend to be a “ready-fire-aim” kind of guy: I want to get things done right now! But while that may be great when you’re working by yourself, once you’re at the point of hiring a team in your business to handle tasks large or small, that team needs to know exactly what you’re aiming at, so they can get ready, fire accurately, and produce the results you want. This requires clear, accurate, effective communication from you. You must communicate effectively with your team, so they have everything they need to know in order to get the job done.
When a system breakdown happens, you’ll often hear someone saying, “I didn’t know.” “I didn’t know that it had to be done today, I was going to do it first thing tomorrow. You should have told me it was urgent.” “I didn’t know that I was supposed to do it myself, I gave it to Mike to handle. I didn’t know it was important or I would have done it myself. You can’t blame me.” Effective communication helps to eliminate these kinds of excuses. More important, it helps your team do their job right the first time.
Effective communication starts with setting expectations in advance in six specific areas:
- What’s the team’s objective? What result are they supposed to create?
- What’s the time frame for accomplishing this particular result?
- What resources will the team have at its disposal? Money, materials, information, outside contractors, etc.?
- What limitations will they have to deal with? This includes budgetary limitations, or constraints on any other resources mentioned in #3.
- What benefits will the result create for the team and the organization? Make sure to include things that will benefit the team members personally (prestige, bonuses, promotions/raises, pride of accomplishment, etc.) as well as the organization as a whole (improved profitability, greater sales, better customer service, etc.).
- What are the positive consequences for achieving the result, and what are the negative consequences if the team’s efforts are not successful? While you may have covered the positive consequences in #5, it’s important for the team to understand the negative consequences to themselves and the organization if the team misses the mark.
Communicating expectations concisely and clearly in these six areas is only the first step: you also need to make sure the communication is actually understood by each member of your team. I like to have each person repeat back to me what they understand about the six areas, and how their part fits into a greater plan. And remember, communication is a two-way street, so make sure that you are flexible and open to questions and suggestions from your team about the project.
When your team feels clear, and you feel that they are clear, then everyone can start executing the plan. Along the way you should support the team as promised, have regular check-ins without micromanaging (think of this as “trust but verify”), and make sure that your team stays on track to accomplish the result.
Learning the lesson about effective communication cost me literally millions of dollars in my previous businesses, but I look at the experience as an expensive class in which I got an “A,” so I received the full value. Use what I have learned — so you don’t have to pay for the class as well.