Good teachers know: all children can learn, but each child learns differently. Good leaders know this, too. Everybody in every organization needs information; everybody from the janitor to the vice president, needs to know:
How were doing.
Where were going.
How were going to get there.
But very few know how to get this information across. Most bosses (and a couple of teachers, too, Im afraid) think they can communicate the same way with everyone. Just say it. Or: Just write it. And they truly believe itll work.
I have two grandsons: Michael is an active extrovert; Austin is a quiet introvert. I know that each one listens to me when Im talking, but Austin sits while Michael walks around. If I made Michael sit and listen, he would do it -- but he wouldnt learn anything. How many companies understand this?
Very few companies realize that each employee learns differently. They learned differently as children in school; they learn differently now. Some will read the bulletin board; others wont. Some will read their email; others never open it. Some will read the notice thats tucked in with their paycheck; others throw that away immediately. And (you know this is true), some will listen intently at a staff meeting; others will sleep in a corner.
If youre going to communicate, youll have to take the time to find out which communication venue works the best with this person.
Good communication takes time. We not only have to listen well, and that takes time, but we have to explain it in just the right way so the other person understands, and that takes even more time. We have to repeat it in all these different ways of learning until we find the right one.
Sounds tedious, doesnt it? So why do it? Let me give you three good reasons. If you learn this lesson, you wont have to repeat yourself over and over again. Results will happen -- the first time. Youll grow another person.
First, we dont save time or money by skipping the right kind of explanation. You know thats true with your kids. If you let your 16-year-old ADHD son drive your car without hands-on instructions, youll only have to do it later -- after you pay his speeding ticket.
Its the same way at work. Always ask them to repeat what youve said. Dont be in a hurry to get away. Stay with them until there are no more questions. Secondly, if you come home tonight and you know youve communicated the right way to the right person, youll be able to enjoy your family time. You wont have to worry about Frank messing up, or Julie dropping the ball. You wont be on the phone during dinner when you should be listening to your teenage son.
And thirdly, youll have the joy of knowing that you helped another person grow. Each of us carries around a Santa Claus sack full of wisdom and knowledge. We are unique in what we know. If we take the time each day to share that knowledge by carefully picking the right venue we can grow our children; we can grow our fellow employees; we can grow our customers. And most of all, we can grow ourselves.
The good communicator takes the time to find out how to communicate, because its just good business. Good teachers know this; so do real leaders. You can be a leader, too, if you want to.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.