By Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
Have you ever had one of those situations? You know the one. You are communicating with a colleague, and you thought that you had given such incredibly clear directions that you couldn’t believe it when they didn’t do what you had instructed?
It happens unintentionally. Most of the time people think that they are being very specific in their conversations. We believe that we have transferred all the relevant information for the recipient to properly execute a task, but in reality we have a lot of information in our mind that hasn’t been shared.
All too often, as the leader of an organization or a project, it is natural to ruminate and incubate the details of a project for quite a while. Then you start to formulate a plan, plotting the steps and the details necessary to successfully resolve the matter. So now you meet with a member of your team (board, staff or volunteer) to share the assignment of how to enact your plan.
The recipient takes the information you have shared and sets off to put it into motion. The following week you have a meeting to measure progress on the project, only to learn that your colleague didn’t complete the task as envisioned. Most people will get angry at this point which then makes further conversation difficult. And once the communication breaks down at this level, progress generally comes to a grinding halt.
To avoid these frustrations, follow these steps for success:
Share Your Vision
While you serve in a leadership role for your organization, not everyone will have the same level of understanding that you do. Perhaps they are newer to the team or the board. Perhaps they are more junior in their career. The truth is that the clearer you can be in helping others see your vision, the more successful you will be.
Provide Clear Instruction
It is only natural to think that you have been direct in your communication. But sometimes we worry about other’s feelings or being condescending in our tone. If you can be straightforward with a kind tone and provide the details of your assignment, you and the project manager will both feel more accomplished when the work is completed.
As a leader, it is also helpful to explain why the task or project matters. And if certain tasks must be completed a specific way, sharing the reasons why this process is so peculiar or specific will also help others understand the importance of adhering to that precise procedure.
Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes
If you were touching this project or this work for the first time, what questions would you have? Try to set up trainings so that you can provide the details that your colleague will need to complete the work. When we take the time to see a project or an assignment through the eyes of others, we can often plan better and provide better instruction.
Plan for Success
Advise on the front end of a project what success will look like. How will the work be evaluated? What metrics will be used to evaluate the outcomes? When you provide the details about how a project will be evaluated, it helps everyone know what success looks like so the project stays on point.
Ask to Have the Assignment Repeated Back
Most nonprofit leaders are generally rushing from item to item over the course of the day. However, it is incredibly helpful to slow down long enough to ask your team member if they can repeat the assignment back to them. Often, misunderstandings can be identified on the front end of a project when you ask them to share with you what they heard in your conversation.
It is important to foster an environment where questions are encouraged. Asking questions can clarify understanding and prevent lost time on a project. Make time for answering questions by carving dedicated office hours or regular meeting times to foster a culture of open discussion.
Urge your board, staff and volunteers to ask questions, and then lead by example in often asking questions of others. Sometimes it is as simple as saying, “Can you tell me more about that idea?” or “Tell me more about how you see this working.”
Maintain Regular Check-Ins
Set up a schedule to monitor project progress with routine check-ins. They don’t have to be long meetings, but by maintaining a standing appointment, you are more likely to prevent a course from going off-track.
Establish and Foster Open Discussions
Some organizations say that they want open discussion, but they do not create the strong sense of trust with their team that fosters an open culture. Be careful not to rush through meetings or shut down an employee or volunteer who wants to contribute to the conversation. It is in those moments that everyone is watching, and the tone of your organization is being set.
It is also important to encourage managers and other leaders within your nonprofit or association to encourage their teams to discuss projects and foster conversations. This will build trust and result in increased innovation for your organization.
When you share the details of your project, it helps the team see your vision or goal. When your team sees your desired outcome clearly, they are more likely to understand their role in achieving that vision. This fosters a successful and impassioned team for your association.
And when you have a team that can work together in this manner with this level of dedication and success, your organization will organically reach new heights.