Mostly we know that improved communication will help us and our teams work better.
And recently I came across an example of something more subtle which had a profound impact on the working of a team and demonstrated very well how checking understanding and asking for clarification ultimately leads to better productivity and improved profits.
I have been working with a team who wanted to develop their communication skills. Part of that was encouraging each other to speak up when they didn’t understand and then supporting each other to find how things needed to change to improve their understanding.
Stephen did exactly that. He said – ‘I’m not sure I’m following this. In fact, this often happens to me in these meetings. I’m ok up to a point then I just don’t get it. It just feels all over the place.’
There was bit of eye rolling from some of his colleagues but we persevered with the process we agreed and asked:-
‘So what needs to change so that you understand things better?’
He thought for a while and said ‘Well if we could see a summary of the points being made every now and again, that would help’
Another team member agreed to do this and after a short period, listed the first summary on a board. Stephen nodded and ‘thumbs upped’ his agreement.
Stephen’s way of processing information is visual, structured and linear so a list of points really helped him.
His boss who chaired the meetings spoke and thought in a more unstructured way so it was just about finding a solution which suited them both.
Regularly summarising the points gave us the expected result – better understanding for Stephen.
But there was an added benefit.
As the summary was produced, a couple of others around the table expressed surprise. They thought they had understood but now they saw the summarised points, realised their assumptions had been incorrect and as a result, were getting better understanding themselves.
And as a result of that the meeting took on a whole new direction, with new ideas and challenges popping up all over the place.
And those challenges and new ideas resulted in identifying better and more productive ways of working.
A change designed to help one team member who knew he was having difficulty also helped other members of the team who thought they understood.
So if you would like to communicate well with with others in a way that will link directly to an increase in productivity, it is always worth checking understanding and assumptions by:-
- Encouraging openness so that people feel safe to challenge or ask for clarification
- Identifying the preferred thinking style of those you are communicating with and tailor your communication accordingly.
If you have any opinions, ideas or experiences about how developing communication skills helps improve productivity, please share them, we would love to hear from you.