How to send your message

December 9, 2007

Q: I give instructions to my team and they just don’t get it. I keep repeating myself yet it doesn’t get any clearer for them, then I get angry and frustrated and nothing gets accomplished. What could I do differently?

A: Before you blow another gasket, know that 85 per cent of business issues are people-related not skill-related. Even clear, direct communication can often result in a different message received. The onus is on the sender to ensure it is received as you intended.

Here are some tips:

  • Begin by clearly stating your reason and the result you are expecting from the receiver. Do you want them to take action immediately, to file this information until required, or is it simply FYI? Explain how following these directions will benefit them, the team, the client or other stakeholders.
  • Many people miss this next crucial point: Step outside of what you want and consider it from your listener’s perspective. Are your instructions clear? Are the outcomes realistic? What vital information must they have to carry out these instructions and successfully meet your expectations? The receiver needs enough detail to deliver on, yet not so much that they get bogged down.
  • Your message requires three key elements: What you want done, when it needs to be finished and how you want to be informed when it’s completed. Empower team members to complete the task in their own way.
  • Now about that tone — yes, even e-mail has a voice quality that telegraphs volumes. If your message is emotionally charged, even the clearest directions will be resisted. Keep your message light and to the point.

Originally printed in The Province, December 9, 2007.

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