As a leader, you’ve probably asked your team countless times some version of, “Do you understand?” How do team members generally respond? They nod, smile, and say yes. And more often than not, even if they don’t understand, they assume they’ll figure it out along the way.
Some do. Some don’t. But rarely will anyone recognize the gap in their understanding and let you know directly upfront: “No, I don’t get it!”
So the burden falls on you, the speaker, to verify. Here are four ways to ensure that others really DO understand what you’re communicating.
Expand your meaning by elaborating. Here are some example transitions you might use after you’ve overviewed your message:
“Let me give you a situation where this would apply….”
“You may be wondering what the implications of this change will be for you. Let me highlight some that we anticipate happening next quarter….”
“Let me be clear about what we’re NOT expecting from you…”
“What I’ve just said won’t apply equally to all departments. Here’s why….”
You get the idea here about elaboration.
Like this analogy: “When we design the casing for the motor, we’re going to install a little device that operates much like a zipper.. . . So if we need to do maintenance while the motor’s running, we can just unzip it without having to stop operations.”
Or like this metaphor: “His competitive attitude with coworkers is a cancer that has metastasized and is killing morale in the department.”
Or this illustration: “At your current interest rate and with minimum payments on the loan, it would take you 127 years to repay a mortgage of that magnitude.”
Analogies and metaphors communicate a big concept in a few words.
Where verification is concerned, keep the ball in your court. Ask questions and listen carefully to your team member’s answers to see how well their understanding aligns with your intentions. For example:
“So how long do you think implementation will take?”
“What problems do you anticipate in the roll-out?”
“What will be your first few steps to get this underway?”
“What kind of budget do you think we’ll need to do this well?”
With their answers, you can determine for yourself how well others understand what you’re communicating.
If we’ve learned anything from TV commercials, it’s that frequency pays. Some sponsors use the very same ad 3 or 4 times within a couple of hours. Why?
The human brain filters out “noise.” Sometimes we have to hear a message 6, 7, even 8 times before it sticks. So don’t get frustrated that you’ve “said it already.” Expect and plan to say it again. And again.
Never stop with the common question, “Do you understand?” Instead, as with many other tasks, trust but verify.
Learn more ways to ensure that coworkers and employees understand with Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire and Get Things Done. Download an excerpt by clicking here or on the image below.