“Why doesn’t my manager listen when I explain the details?”

“Why doesn’t the developer just give me what I ask for?”

These questions popped out during the Tutorial at this year’s AYE Conference. Realizing the energy, Steve and I held an impromptu discussion on the topic.

What came out of the discussion? Both groups were “mind reading”. Guessing what the other person wanted, and how they wanted it.

When I work with a new client, I follow these three steps to remove mind reading to improve my communication with the client.

1. I ask them what they want. Do they want a summary? “The ship is sinking.” Do they want a summary and action items? “The ship is sinking. If we can isolate the compromised compartments, we may be able to stay afloat.” Do they want details so they can form their own conclusions? “We just hit an iceberg. The forward port compartments 1 – 4 have been compromised and are taking on water.” Even when I summarize, I have detailed information available if asked for it.

2. I ask them how they’d like to receive the information. Sometimes people want to hear the information. Others prefer something written; email, report, spreadsheet, whatever. When you give them information in the requested format, you’re respecting their personality preferences.

3. After the first report, I ask if the information I gave them, and how I presented the information worked for them. This step gives me information on:

– Did I understand their request for information?
– Was I able to meet the request?

Following these steps simplifies my task of sharing information. It also simplifies management’s job of repackaging the information for others to view and use.