‘The first race won’t be for half an hour,’ said Bingo. ‘We’d better lunch now. Fish the basket out, Jeeves, would you mind?’
‘The luncheon-basket,’ said Bingo in a devout sort of voice, licking his lips slightly.
‘The basket is not in Mr Wooster’s car, sir.’
‘I assumed that you were bringing it in your own, sir.’
I have never seen the sunshine fade out of anybody’s face as quickly as it did out of Bingo’s. He uttered a sharp, wailing cry.
The single most common failing I see with my clients is poor communication. Sometimes it’s completely absent, sometimes it just isn’t working properly. You can fix up everything else, but if you don’t fix the communication problems, you’re wasting your time.
This might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed at how badly it’s done in many companies.
Why is communication important?
Without successful communication, you have to do everything yourself. As soon as you involve just one other person in what you’re doing, you need to communicate with them in some way.
If you’ve ever traveled to another country where they don’t speak your language, you’ve no doubt discovered just how frustrating it can be to communicate even the simplest of ideas. There’s usually a lot of pantomime, and frantic gesturing.
And it’s often a slow process to narrow down the meaning if it’s not something simple like “I want something to eat” or “I need to go to the bathroom”. “What time tomorrow does the train to Barcelona leave?” is rather tricky to mime.
It’s incredibly rare for a lone genius to do something amazing. If you’re a manager, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do your job and that of everyone else. You have to delegate, and, you know, manage, and that means communication.
Test for success
The medium you use to communicate will vary. You’ll almost always use more than one, and that’s fine and well. The medium is less important than testing that you communicated effectively.
That’s right. Testing.
Testing can be as simple as listening for the applause of an audience at the end. You might see sales of your product go up after a particular marketing campaign. Or you might see your employees doing the things you’ve asked.
But that’s pretty passive testing. It’s better than nothing, but you can do better.
You do want to be better, don’t you?
Watch the pros
The best communicators test for success all the time. Go and watch some live standup comedy, or a great public speaker. Watch someone on TV or DVD if you can’t get to some live gigs. Pay attention to how they monitor the room.
This is also how great ad-hoc speakers work: they watch for feedback all the time, and change their delivery accordingly.
The best comedians will do this, too. If their new material isn’t working, they’ll use some of their tried-and-true stuff to get the crowd laughing again. It’s partly art, and partly science.
It’s the measurement that’s important. The more often you measure how successful your communication is, the more chances you have to fix it if it’s going wrong.
Measure and tweak
The clients that get the best results are the ones that get the communication right. They look for feedback, and check to see how things are working. They assess the feedback honestly. They don’t pretend that everything is ok when it’s really not. They don’t blame, but they do fix. They do more of what works well, and change the things that don’t.
These clients are also the most fun and rewarding to work with.
And they get the most done, because people aren’t confused about what to do.
So how are you measuring your success at communicating? Is it working well, or do you keep misplacing your lunch basket?