Communicate Clearly – or Don’t Bother

In any endeavor, it is of critical importance that you be able to communicate clearly, and that you exercise that ability as often as needed. There are two parts to good communication, and either without the other can lead to avoidable problems.

The first component is the ability to clearly express ideas, concerns, requests, or questions. While this skill is needed in both the oral and written form, it is possible to develop one without the other, and have it suffice.

The second component is the ability to deliver communiques as often as necessary, and to be available to receive and respond to such communiques when needed. Within an organization, this extends to knowing who to send a particular request or piece of information to. The chain of command needs to be known, and each link in the chain must be able to access the surrounding links whenever needed.

Where these two components become particularly important is when the various people communicating are not located in close proximity to one another. The more difficult it is to establish a line of communication (point two), the more important it is that what communication does occur be particularly clear. As the clarity of communiques decreases, the frequency of communiques, or, more particularly, the ability to request clarification, must increase.

I have witnessed one business suffer because of a failure in this area – with an absentee decision maker, the chain of command began to fail. While everyone in the business knew who made certain decisions, they were unable to communicate with him easily, and often significant amounts of time were lost just waiting for a response. Additionally, some of the communiques were difficult to understand, leading to mixed messages being sent, and many people in the business unclear as to their duties and responsibilities.

If you want to ensure that this doesn’t happen to your business, ensure that you know who is ultimately responsible for each segment of the business. Next, ensure that all communiques issued are clear and sufficiently verbose to avoid mixed messages. No, you don’t need an essay to explain each decision, but don’t assume that “sure, okay” means the same thing to the person reading it as it does to you.