Nothing has been communicated until it has been understood
What I mean by that are the times when you have a conversation with someone and you wanted him/ her to do something just to find out a little later that it has not been done in the time frame or scope you wanted. And all of this happened even though you may have had a lively and great conversation. What could have been wrong? You were so clear you think to yourself. Trust me, I know the feeling all too well.
This type of conversation is called communication for action. Once you realize the key elements of it, you can guide the conversation no matter if you are at the receiving end of a request or if you request something yourself. The basis of it lies in the request being made by the “customer”. The request needs to contain the conditions of satisfaction and is considered the most crucial step:
- What would you like to be done?
- How would you like this to be done?
- When would you like this to be completed?
- How much of a priority does this task have?
- Is there a preference as to who should do this?
- How much feedback is required during and after the task is done?
- Are responsibility and authority clear to the one who will perform the task?
Once the above conditions have been discussed and a commitment has been reached between “customer” and “performer” both people can go their way until the task has been carried out. Then the performer needs to provide the customer with the information as to if and how the task was completed. The circle cannot, or at least should not, be closed until the customer declares complete satisfaction.
I admit the first couple of times it felt kind of awkward when I asked my internal or external customers for the conditions of satisfaction. Once I realized how much time and nerves I spared myself and others because the tasks got done on time and to the extend intended, I was fully on board of this quick mental check list. You may just be surprised how often you will find out about tasks that do not have the urgency you thought they had. Imagine the how many other urgent matters that you can go after instead. Remember that you can use this system as the performer just as well as the customer. Most folks posing requests have the benefit that they have dealt with the situation at hand for a while. That is why the request may be clearer to them than to you. With clarity and a clear commitment there will be a lot fewer headaches in your future.