What is concrete communication? And How does it lead to more clarity?
In our previous article, Leadership Conversations, we discussed a simple framework for navigating conversations with a customer, prospective client, job applicant, team member, or even family member or friend. The last step of that framework was the button-down step, which was:
Go back, clarify and verify the next steps, finalize the details, mention them one more time for reinforcement, and remember they are not real until they are written down and scheduled! Make sure everyone knows what is happening next and who is responsible for what. “Button-Down” clarify the next steps to reinforce clarity in our communication.
This step precisely and concretely identifies the next steps, so they are crystal clear to those involved. This requires quality communication and attentiveness from the communicator and receiver.
As the communicator, we are required to be at the top of our game, providing leadership and follow-through. Timeliness and organization are key to building credit and trust in your professionalism. Without specificity and clarity, action items, critical communication, and results drift. Things get glossed over, missed, unorganized, and proper notes to stay and keep on track are impossible to effectively lead yourself or anyone to a result.
Understanding how to improve communication requires a shift in our communication. Knowing how to use questions to clarify, verify, and discover that specifically and concretely is key. Unfortunately, most don’t know the tools or have access to how they could communicate and get a different outcome. Most think they did all they could simply because no one taught them what else could have been an option from a communication standpoint. Being more concrete in your communication will make the button-down more effective and give way to the next action steps that need to be taken. Without this key communication link, we can stay stuck, and all momentum ceases, and we all know what it is like restarting momentum, it is easier to keep it, and these two options will do just that.
In the coming weeks, we will use examples to better understand the options we have to be better communicators and leaders. This time we will start with one of my mistakes that anchored a great communication lesson. Our communication skills often result from learning from humbling experiences like this.
Concrete: The Clarity of it!
A new team member once asked me, “Hey, how should I follow up with this prospect?”
He further explained to me the situation, and I replied with an initial response of…
“Call twice next week and once the following week if you did not hear back.”
Being in a hurry, this answer quickly came off my tongue. In hindsight, the primary mistake I made was to refer to the standard principle in sales, without fully explaining it, and even though he had many years of experience in sales, he had just joined our team and would have no way of reading my mind as to what I knew I was referring to.
The standard rule I was thinking of is you might try 4-6 times over 2-4 weeks with a new prospect you have not spoken with yet; to reach someone using alternate times and dates. Meaning if you called 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, then 3:00 on Thursday, the following week, you could try noon on Monday or 1:00 on Thursday. Notice, in the moment, how much specific information I left out, how much I was assuming he would know from that. Did I expect him to read my mind? Unfortunately, all at times have done this.
What is great about this team member is that they are thorough and know precisely when they want to follow up, so he was persistent with me in making sure he understood what to do. A great asset he brings to his communication that I appreciate. As I became more conscious of my poor communication, I realized he did not have clarity on specifically when to call. While I could have gotten frustrated, he did not understand; I quickly remembered I needed to be more concrete. I needed to own my communication and support his goal of setting this lead.
I used the opportunity to back up and share with him four times he can follow up in the next two weeks if need be and the standard sales training principle I had yet to share with him to familiarize him with our sales approach and culture.
From here, he had the concrete, tangible tools to apply to this lead and future leads, creating a teachable moment for him, usable now and forever into the future; leverage what we learned today for tomorrow.
He later got the lead, and the result accomplished! Being concrete created the clarity to produce the results because a confused mind does not act!