Last year, I went to Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery seminar in Miami and while we covered a lot of topics in the four days I was there, one particular discussion stood out in my mind as a shining beacon of truth. It had to do with the way we miscommunicate and then blame others for doing a “bad job” for us.

During Tony’s teachings, he often calls upon people in the audience to talk about problems they are having with their business – particularly the things standing in the way of success. One guy got up and said something to the effect of, “my employees are doing a terrible job, which is why my company is failing.” As Robbins probed a little deeper, he found that the man kept hiring people who started off promisingly, but soon started doing bad work and eventually stopped caring all together.

As the story unfolded, we discovered that the man was terrible at communicating what he wanted from his employees. They couldn’t read his mind and therefore, started doing a “terrible job.” This, of course, lead to a bad feeling between boss and employee, leading to fights, which then  caused the employee to feel disengaged from the job all together.

There are a few lessons here:

  1. If people keep treating you the same way time and again, the problem isn’t with them – it’s with you.
  2. If you don’t communicate exactly what you want, you are always going to be disappointed with the result.
  3. If you keep blaming others for your mistakes, you’re always going to be the victim.

When you are working with people, taking the time to communicate clearly is always the best way to get the optimum result. Some of us think we’re being clear, but what the rest of the room hears is “ksnjknjknfu45 k4n5kj34jknkj 43nkj5nnkj fndnfk!!”

So how can you make sure you don’t sound like Charlie Brown’s Mom when you’re giving instruction? Here’s a good start:

Come from a Place of Respect

It doesn’t matter what your job title is, where you went to school, how much money you make, or what your resume looks like, you are not better than anyone else. If you understand this fact, you are well on your way to being a better communicator. When you look down on or patronize people, they can feel it – even if you’re the best actor in the world. And when people feel this from you, it can lead to nerves, resentment, or a plethora of other feelings that aren’t conducive to doing their best work.

So if you have a chip on your shoulder – get rid of it. Now.

Write it Out

When you’re speaking to someone in person, you might use gestures, facial expressions, and excitable gibberish to get your point across to them  – and since you’re working so hard, it feels as though you communicated your point clearly, when really you didn’t say anything.

The best way to make sure your communication is crystal clear is to write it out. This way, you can only use words to get your point across. Write with the intention that if it’s not unambiguously written on the page, it’s not going to be done. This will help you get detailed really quick.

Once you’ve written it out, you’ll find that your thoughts are much clearer and you can go to your employees and more effectively convey the job to them.

Ask Questions and Really Listen

After you’ve communicated the tasks to your team, it’s time to ask questions. First, ask them if they have any questions or need clarity on any points. Once you’ve answered those, ask some very specific questions of your own (to make sure they deeply understand the job).

Instead of asking something like “Does that make sense?” which is general, ask a deeper question like, “For the first marketing video about employee benefits, what are the main points we need to hit?” This causes your audience to actively think about the job they are about to do and starts a collaborative discussion. It also reiterates the task, so that no one gets side tracked.

Communication is the key to success in pretty much all aspects you can think of and once you get it down, you’re on your way to a more profitable, happy business.

Formerly a Vice President of Content Marketing, Molly is the Co-Founder of The Unicorn in the Room, as well as a Marketing & Business Columnist for INC and The Huffington Post.


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