All too often, issues arise in business not due to incompetence but rather to misunderstandings. These misunderstandings, though generally not catastrophic, lead to wasted time explaining the original vision and tweaking – or in some cases re-doing – the item in question. This situation occurs across all types of businesses, whether it’s two servers at a restaurant sharing a table leading to the neglect of that table as each thinks the other is checking on them or in retail a manager asking an employee to build a look with the blue dresses and the employee choosing the wrong set of blue dresses. The possibilities for misunderstandings are endless.
In digital marketing, we see this a lot. For instance, I was speaking with a fellow copy writer last week and asked her if she could write a landing page on a particular subject. In my mind, I was picturing a traditional lead generation landing page with a brief paragraph of text, bullets with features or benefits and a short form for lead gen. However, she interpreted this as a page that we could send someone to simply to find out more information about the service. Neither is right or wrong, but had I taken a few extra moments to ensure that we were on the same page, i.e. speaking the same language, the work could have been completed much faster.
Speaking the Same Language: No Interpreter Necessary
Though these small mix-ups are usually just that – small and harmless – experience a few of them a week and you’ll begin to notice the inefficiencies. Taking some extra time to clear up any confusion – even if you don’t believe there is any. Follow these steps to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is clear about the objective and their roles before the work begins.
Spell Out Your Ideas:
Sometimes we make assumptions that others share our vision, whether it’s because we’ve worked with them for years or we believe that this vision or type of project is universally understood the way in which we view it. This is most likely not the case and assuming that others share our view point leaves a wide margin for error. Thus, it’s crucial to spell your ideas out fully, explaining exactly what you’d like the end product to be and when you expect the project to be completed.
After you’ve given your instructions, as your team member to repeat them back to you. This is a trick we often use after intake meetings with new clients. After asking the client about their company, mission, and customers, we repeat the information back to them, allowing them to see if what they have told us and how the truly view their business line up. Receiving this repetition will give you the chance to clear up any confusion before the work actually begins; as they say, no harm, no foul.
Use Idea Sharing Apps:
Sometimes you need to delegate tasks but you don’t have a chance to talk it out. In these cases, use idea sharing application, such as Evernote, or even a simply email, to fully lay out your idea, your goal, and your expectations. It may take a bit longer than you’d like, but if you delegate the task without explaining these items and one of you ends up having to re-do the work, you’re using even more time to complete the task at hand and defeating the purpose of the delegation.
Offer Examples of Past Work:
If this project is similar to one that both you and the other party worked on in the past, use that project to explain the work that needs to be done now. Returning to our restaurant example, it might be as simple as saying, “remember two nights ago when I took the orders and you ran them? Let’s do that again tonight.” This way, both parties know what’s expected of them and nothing falls through the cracks. Visual examples are also excellent, especially in the digital marketing world. For instance, had I sent a link to my colleague of the landing page layout I was envisioning, it would have been instantly clear to her which direction we were taking.
Learning from Our Miscommunications
Despite our best efforts, miscommunications will still arise within our teams. Yes, these set backs are frustrating, but they also give us opportunities to improve our systems. Take each mix-up and ask yourself, “How could this have been avoided?” Then keep these hypothetical solutions in mind the next time a situation occurs in which there is a possibility of miscommunication. After all, if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we’re doomed to repeat them!