Communication

10 communication pitfalls – and how to avoid them

10 communication pitfalls – and how to avoid them

Monday, 25 February 2019

Have you hit upon a brilliant idea that needs others’ buy-in to become a reality? How you communicate your vision will be key to its ultimate success, so follow our tips for ensuring you sidestep these common mistakes.

 

MISTAKE #1: YOUR VISION LACKS CLARITY

Your message needs to be clear and concise if it’s to convince others of its merits. Tangibility is crucial too. The athletic coach who visualises her team standing on a podium will discover that ‘row faster than any other boat’ is a much stronger mission statement than ‘win an Olympic medal’ because it leaves each stakeholder in no doubt as to what they must do to succeed. It can take time to get to the core message at the heart of your vision, so carve out some thinking space and don’t rush it.

 

MISTAKE #2: YOU HAVEN’T ANALYSED YOUR AUDIENCE

To move your idea to reality you might need approval from your boss, cooperation from a co-worker and collaboration from subordinates. That will probably mean you have to employ different persuasion tactics to win over the various parties. Think carefully what will inspire each stakeholder to respond positively – perhaps your boss will need to see that you’ve thought carefully about the logistical elements, while your employees will want to understand your passion and how the change in direction will benefit them.

 

MISTAKE #3: YOU’RE USING ONLY ONE COMMUNICATION CHANNEL

Informal one-to-one chats, detailed emails, group workshops or formal presentations – you’ve many options when it comes to communicating your vision. But don’t over-rely on your personal preference; create an integrated strategy which employs the best channels for each stakeholder and set of circumstances.

 

MISTAKE #4: YOU HAVEN’T ASKED FOR FEEDBACK

Dictating your vision of the future is unlikely to motivate a team. Wherever possible get others involved in the brainstorming and strategic planning stages. Collaboration and participation will mean there are more ideas on the table and that stakeholders feel a greater sense of ownership of the work to be done. When presenting your vision to a wider group, ask for feedback in a way that enables others to feel they can still influence the outcome.

 

MISTAKE #5: YOU’VE FAILED TO EXPLAIN THE CONTEXT

In crafting your vision of the future you may have facilitated countless brainstorm sessions, immersed yourself in research and analysis, lived, and breathed the creative process for an extended period. But when it’s time to communicate your winning idea, you’ll need to bear in mind that your audience is hearing it for the first time. Tell the story of how your vision evolved in a way that clarifies your thinking and engages your audience. You’ll need to speak their language too – simplifying, contextualising, employing (or removing) jargon and technicalities appropriately.

 

MISTAKE #6: YOU HAVEN’T REINFORCED YOUR MESSAGE

Your audience might be just as excited about your idea as you are, but if you simply share the mission and then expect others to run with it, you might be disappointed. Ensure momentum by assigning actions, talking through next steps, inviting further discussion and taking opportunities to reinforce your key message at regular intervals.

 

MISTAKE #7: YOU HAVEN’T VISUALISED YOUR VISION

When sharing his commitment to organic produce, the chef Raymond Blanc tells how his mother would send him into the family’s orchard to collect the ingredients for a specific recipe she planned to cook. This story evokes far greater resonance and memorability than were he to simply state his preference for homegrown food. Remember, it’s called a vision because it’s your idea of how the future looks. So use storytelling, analogies and imagery to paint a vivid image others can see with sharpness and colour.

 

MISTAKE #8: YOU’VE FOCUSSED ON ‘WHAT’ AND ‘HOW’, BUT NOT ‘WHY’

When your idea involves a big stretch on current resources or requires others to think far outside the box, you might be tempted to talk practicalities. But before your audience can buy into the plan, they need to understand the bigger picture – why they should do what you’re proposing. Apple redefined how you listen to music by launching the iPod, a product that puts thousands of songs in your pocket. But at the heart of the launch was the company’s commitment to creating beautifully designed products that challenge the status quo, and it was this core idea (the ‘why’), not the product itself (the ‘what’ and the ‘how’), which made the iPod one of the most ubiquitous products of our time.

 

MISTAKE #9: YOUR VISION IS TOO AMBITIOUS – OR NOT AMBITIOUS ENOUGH

The team doing the work to bring your vision to life wants a challenge, but not to embark on a task that’s likely to ultimately fail. Employ SMART goal planning, ensuring your mission is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Breaking the bigger goal down into digestible chunks will ensure momentum and enable the team to smell success and celebrate milestones.

 

MISTAKE #10: YOU HAVEN’T CONVEYED YOUR DETERMINATION

A leader who demonstrates passion for her vision is much more likely to enlist followers than one who employs fancy rhetoric or relies on a likeable nature to win over others. Think carefully about why your vision matters to you and convey it in a way that ensures others know you are personally invested. Be authentic – a leader who’s not entirely bought into her own idea, or who is simply regurgitating the beliefs of others, is easy to spot.

 

 

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