Leadership_Icon copyOne of the commonest frustrations cited by coaching clients is the frequency (apparently) with which their people ‘just don’t get it’ – and this is despite all the town halls, away days, slide packs and team briefings. So we find ourselves helping managers understand the role they need to play in finding various ways of communicating clearly. Saying the same thing over and over again, only more loudly, only works if you are in charge of the tannoy and trying to remove late night shoppers from your store.

Communication between one human being and another should be one of the simplest daily activities that we undertake. ‘Have you seen the car keys?’ on the whole does not require too much analysis with both parties normally able to visualise the offending articles and to get a fair picture of the challenge. Admittedly, once the also normal follow-on of ‘You had them last’ has been uttered, the challenge starts to get a bit knottier. At work, however, it can get trickier still.

The following is an example of an internal communication. What happens for you when you try to visualise the following: ‘The aggrandisement of singular factors across the piece has led to an accentuation of focus on assignment capsules and a dilution of macro management responsibilities. As leaders, we must consider the matrixification of the landscape and through the collaborative ‘prairie dogging’ of the terrain, create a phenomeniche that will enable us to develop new markets.’ What on earth are they talking about? Answers on a postcard please……………..

Just to add to the challenges of communication, cognitive neurologist, Professor Adam Zeman and his team at the University of Exeter Medical School are currently undertaking further research into the possibility that 2% of the population suffers from aphantasia – the inability to visualize using our ‘mind’s eye’.

And then there’s what we intend and what the receiver actually imagines. For example, my friend is one of the 98% who can visualise. As a child, she was able to visualise clearly a species of bird she had never seen. She had seen Blue tits, Long-tailed tits and Great tits but had never actually seen the one to which her mother constantly referred when she told her: ‘Your bedroom looks like a ‘Bombsy Tit’. She had never seen one but she knew what one looked like!

So, two essential tips. Firstly, back brief. As a leader, once you have explained your thinking to an individual or to your team, get them to relate back to you the picture you have created in their mind’s eye of what you have been talking about. Trust me, you will learn a lot at this point.

Secondly, cut the jargon and the long words and use pictures. Discipline yourself to make your language as simple as possible. You are not a leader because you have a wider, trendier vocabulary; you are a leader because people understand what you want them to do and their motivation is increased by the way you have communicated it.

By the way, if anyone can explain to me in simple sentences just what the paragraph cited earlier actually means, I would indeed welcome a postcard.