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Communicating effectively

Continued from last week…
For managers in any organization the task of communicating clearly can be a
complex and sometimes stressful business. Often this is because managers see
the communication process as something that just happens and is just part of
the job. And, for many specialists engineers, designers, accountants, surgeons,
scientists, architects etc.- their focus is usually on the process for which
they have been trained - rather than the art of communication. Put simply, engineers
and designers will concentrate on making things work or look the way they want
them to; accountants will put their energy into the figures and calculations;
and surgeons will dedicate themselves to the required surgical procedures.

Are you with me so far ?

We need 14 diesel saloon cars for the sales force; three executive saloons for senior management one of which must have automatic transmission –and a seven-person personnel carrier. Have you got that?


  • Do speak clearly - without mumbling or rushing. The whole point of communicating is sending a message to your listener which can be understood and acted upon

  • Do avoid jargon unless you are absolutely certain that your Listener will understand and, even then, use caution

  • Do give the other person the time and the opportunity to ask Questions

  • Do keep to the point

  • Don't assume that someone understands

  • Don't expect people to ‘use their common sense’ unless, on the basis of past experience, you know this is likely to happen

  • Don't give instructions when you are rushing out the door- this is a prime
    time for misunderstandings to occur

  • Don't work on the basis that, if it makes sense to you, then it must make
    sense to other people.

  • Don't ramble, go off at a tangent or start to discuss or explain irrelevancies.

Sometimes, people who are specialists in their own area of expertise have great
difficulty in providing clear and concise explanations. This may be because
the people with the in-depth knowledge tend to:
  • confuse the non-specialists by either providing too much detail, too many
    facts ,and figures; or, conversely, not enough information

  • use the language of their specialism and pepper the explanation with jargon
    and technical terminology

  • present the explanation in an illogical or confused manner,without following
    a sensible sequence or ideas, facts and figures

You can ensure that others understand your explanations by presenting your
ideas using one of the following techniques.
Explanations using a time sequence
Describe chronological order of events as they happened, or as you would Like
them to happen.
  • In January 1996 we launched the business

  • In September 1997 we expanded into Europe and increased our workforce by 75%.And in March 1999 we began offering franchise opportunities in North America

  • Or

  • At the moment, what happens is that we receive an order in the afternoon, we process the order the following day and we aim to ship to the customer within three days. What I would like to see is a system where we can receive, process and ship our customer' orders on the same day.

Explanations using a place sequence
Describe the sequence of events by taking your listeners from place to place.
  • At the moment we receive goods and immediately stack them in the warehouse. They are checked there and then transferred to the holding bays

  • When orders are received from the units we process them in the holding bays and then the products are loaded onto the trucks and moved out, by road

  • We received the first notification in Madrid, Spain. The next call came through, three days later, to our London office

  • The week after that we received a package, delivered by courier, at our base in New York

Explanations using a looping sequence
You can provide clear explanation by using a looping sequence where one topic,
or item of information, loops on the next, in a logical and sensible way, e.g.
1. Health
2. Obesity
3. Diet
4. Vitamins and minerals
5. Recommended daily intake
6. Suggested intake
1. Need for staff recognition
2. Outline of Investors in People programs
3. Opportunities for staff development
4. Start date of programme

The activity which follows will give you the opportunity to prepare in advance
for the next time you need to explain a new concept, idea, proposal or plan.
Use this activity to help you to prepare a clear, logical and structured argument
the next time you need to explain your ideas.

What precisely, do you need to explain?
In order to explain your ideas as clearly as possible, which will technique
will be the best?

  • A time sequence, laying out events or ideas in chronological order

  • A place sequence, laying out events or ideas in geographical order

  • A loop sequence, laying out events or ideas so that one loops on to the next in a sensible , logical order

  • What are the key points which you need to include in your explanation?

  • What kind of ideas, concepts and plans are most difficult for you to explain?

To meaningful feedback on your ability to explain ideas and concepts using these techniques, you may find it helpful to ask for comments from a trusted colleague who is on the receiving end of your explanation.

Ask your colleague to offer feedback to you on whether or not the explanation was:
  • clear and easy to follow

  • logical and sensible

  • And, if you feel it is appropriate, ask your colleague for any ideas or suggestions
    as to how you might be able to make your explanations even easier to follow
    and understand in the future
    Remember, when giving instructions

    • Be precise and specific.

    • Give examples or demonstrations of what you want.

    • Avoid jargon.

    • At various points the conversation summarise what you have said and check that your listener understands you

    • Give your listener ample time and opportunity to ask questions to make sure that they understand your requirements.

    • Never assume anything with anyone.

    • Offering explanations or presenting ideas or concepts

    • Present facts or ideas using a sensible frame work, so that people can follow your line of thought.

    You can do this using:

    • a time sequence ... this happened and then this ...

    • a place sequence...this happens here and that happens there

    • a looping sequence... where one idea is looped onto anothe

    Never ever assume that because something seems simple and straightforward to
    you, everyone else will automatically understand the first time you explain.
    Be prepared to go through your explanation as many times as necessary until
    your listener understands.

    Excerpts from The University of Leicester Diploma in Management – Resource
    Development International (RDI) Jamaica.
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