People do business with people they understand. Your clients and colleagues may not understand what you are saying to them. You assume that they do.
There is a professional disconnect. Colleagues and clients tune out and turn off after a while. Has this happened to you? To your team?
When you stop assuming that people understand what you are saying, you start focusing on understandability as your goal. You change your habits. Your increased professional understandability is reflected in:
- how you speak
- when you speak
- what you say
- how you phrase
- why you ask questions
- how you interpret information
- what types of insights you offer
- what types of conclusions you infer from information and conversations
Let’s explore together.
Understandability is an accounting term. It’s definition: “A company’s financial information should be presented in such a way that a person with a reasonable knowledge of business and finance, and the willingness to study the information, should be able to comprehend it. This principle is included in the Accounting Standards Board’s Statement of Principles.” (Online Business Dictionary)
Lack of communication due to lack of understandability are root causes when contracts aren’t renewed. New sales are stalled or derailed. You aren’t successful in targeting promotion. Ventures are not funded. Early adopters for your startup’s products do not understand what they are supposed to adopt, earlier than anyone else.
Ultimately, your job function is to transact business, regardless of your job description. Each of us, in a daily basis, plays a role in driving revenue through our organizations and our institutions. Consider your role in each of these scenarios.
- Business is transactional: it is fueled by the exchange or transfer of goods, materials, services and ideas. Who are the individuals you come into contact with each day? What types of goods, materials, services and ideas do you exchange with each other, no matter how unimportant or how inconsequential you feel these are (because they aren’t)?
- The owners of those goods, materials, services and ideas “live” in different professional environments, utilize different professional methodologies and speak different professional languages. What types of conversations do you exchange with your colleagues, suppliers and customers each day? What types of words do each of you use during these conversations? How certain are you both that you understand what each other is saying? How often do the transactions resulting from your conversations miss their target?
- When ideas are exchanged and business is transacted, these differences in perspective and methodologies are seated around the table. How frequently do you attend meetings, listen to conversations and observe communication and comprehension failure? How often does lack of understandability become a key driver in company success?
- Depending on where we all sit around the business table, due to our differences, we “see” the same things differently, especially when understandability is not made the primary objective of the transaction. What happens if your team meets prior to meetings to determine whether what you plan to tell colleagues will be easily understood? What happens when your team proactively provides meeting attendees with information and a glossary of terms to facilitate understandability?
Targeting understandability is important. When listener comprehension – understandability – becomes your communications benchmark, more successful business outcomes result.
Understandability involves strategy and collaboration. It is a two-way street enhancing dynamics between colleagues and clients. Your communication plan includes forethought before and feedback after you communicate:
- Will they understand what we are saying or won’t they?
- If they do understand what we are communicating, what types of questions will they ask and how should we respond for understandability?
Focus on understandability this week. See what happens as a result of your intentions.
Babette N. Ten Haken is a strategist, analyst, author and blogger. Her focus: the interrelationship between teams, leadership and culture in technology and manufacturing. Her Workshops target excellence in the execution of strategy. Babette began her career in clinical research where she was asked to bring clarity to stalemated cross-functional conversations. Her Playbook of collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com. She writes for IBM, Penton, and other brands in the technology sector.
Image courtesy iStock.