Jan 10, 2019
Poor communication → Unmet expectations → Frustration
“Everyone hears only what he understands” - Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe (scientist & author, 1749-1832)
Two big challenges we face in effective
Assumptions: Experiences in my head I’m not
adding in to the information I’m sharing because I believe you will
already know it as I do.
- “Take the truck west and turn left where the barn was.” I’m
assuming you know where the barn use to stand (because I
- “Take the tractor and work that field.” I’m assuming you know
how fast to drive, what angle to go and how deep to till.
- What’s happening around us informs out assumptions as well. Are
we in a hurry? Are we tired and emotions are high?
- Our environment can have a significant impact on what we
process and how we take information in. Maybe it’s harvest and I
say, “Give the combine a cleaning tonight before you put it away.
What I’m not expecting is a that the employee does a full power
wash with soap and then waxes the entire machine. It’s harvest—we
aren’t going to do that. To me a “cleaning” during harvest is to
blow the dust out of the air filter, get the garbage out of the cab
and clean the windows—that’s it!
Definitions: Simple words can carry wildly
different definitions, which can get us in trouble. Here’s a
humorous example that happened to a friend a few years ago. He was
at a farm auction. He called up his father and said “Hey, they have
a couple bins they’re going to be selling. Do you want me to bid on
them?” The father said, “Sure, just don’t pay too much,” and that
was the end of the conversation. As it turns out, that simple
conversation was loaded with miscommunication. My friend—not
knowing what “too much” meant because his father wouldn’t give him
a number—bid what he thought was a reasonable price and won the two
bins. He called his dad to let him know that he had bought both
bins for just a couple thousand dollars. Flabbergasted, the father
asked what kind of bins he had bought.“Well, they are 5,000 bushel
grain bins,” said my friend. “Oh no!” the dad exclaimed, “I thought
you were buying bins to hold nuts & bolts in the shop!”So when
I say, “Go fast,” what does that mean? How about “slow”?
“Carefully”? “Stay late”? “Show up early”? That could mean
5am or 7am...I know some people who would think 9am is early.
Better communication results on the farm
- Know the audience: Understand who you are
talking to and be able to dial in the message. Some people will
require more detail in the message than others. This flex we do
with different people is well-presented in the model known as
Situational Leadership. It presents our approach in stages,
depending on the development of the other person:
• Very low competence = Very
directive guidance—very clear, very straightforward and focused on
• More experienced = Coaching
communication—less directing the actions and more providing support
• Very competent = Supportive
relationship—more offering our support than our direction.
• Expert level competency and
confidence = All they need is delegation
- Communication routines build rhythms on how we
communicate with others based who they are and what they need. Lay
out when to check in with your landlords—just put it on your
calendar (and then do it.) Decide right now when you’re going to
have banker meetings. Use a calendar on your phone; send invites.
If your banker says he want to meet three times over the year, pick
a day/time and send him an invite. Calendar team meetings however
they serve the group the best. What’s on the calendar gets done, so
schedule it and do it.
- The medium refers to all of the different
tools we have to let us communicate. Never in history have we had
more ways to communicate than we have today, and never has it been
cheaper! We have face-to-face, phone calls, text messages, emails,
instant messaging, Face Time, Twitter, et al. Here’s where wisdom
comes to the plate. Which medium will give the best results in any
given situation? Choose wisely which way you will communicate with
others based on each situation. Texting is always quick & easy,
but sometimes too much detail is required so you should opt for a
phone call instead.
- Speak simply, avoiding jargon and technical
talk. Nobody has ever complained because someone was too easy to
- Assume nothing. Of course that’s impossible,
but I challenge you to be diligently aware for when you are adding
assumptions. When in doubt, ask for clarification
- Ask for understanding. Ask others to repeat
back to you what they heard or what they are now going to go do.
You can say, “Hey, I gave you a lot of information there on what I
want you to do this afternoon. Just to make sure I didn’t miss
anything, what is your plan on the project?”
“Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” -
Steven R. Covey (author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
I hope you’ve found some things that can help develop your
leadership skills today. If you are looking to grow your business
effectiveness, give Water Street Solutions a call at