“Apologies are great, but don’t really change anything. You know what does? Action!”
– Stella Young
Over the last few days I’ve had five different people apologize to me for things that could have easily been avoided. Three of the apologies were from big stores that couldn’t deliver on their promises; and the other two were from individual employees at different companies, for mistakes they made. The clear culprit behind all the apologies was lack of communication.
5 apologies in a matter of 3 days got me thinking about how easily each situation could have been avoided all together if they only had only communicated more effectively. It’s amazing how simple a situation looks when you look back at it.
Well, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try to pass along to you what I learned from these situations. First of all, I appreciated each of the apologies, but I’m not so sure they were all sincere. I would have much rather have had better service to begin with, instead of apology after apology, without resolution. I may be off, but I believe most people would rather have satisfactory results and productivity than apologies.
Here are 5 tips that would have prevented the 5 apologies I received these past few days; I hope they can help you increase the communication with your team and everyone around you:
1. Train your people properly
Never ask an employee to do something if they haven’t been properly trained to do the task. Three of the apologies were due to inadequate employees who were simply clueless. Leaders cannot expect their employees to excel if they aren’t properly trained to meet (and/or exceed) the expectations. Training is a continual process and communication begins the process. Employees also must communicate if they don’t understand how to perform a task. Leaders, never assume an employee understands a task; always ensure they have been trained prior to assigning them a task.
2. Legitimate accountability
Leaders can improve communication, productivity, and customer satisfaction by holding their employees accountable for their actions. Accountability can be established by following up and giving sufficient feedback immediately… both good and bad feedback. Praise good work, and correct poor work. By doing so, employees understand their expectations.
3. Listen closely; then decide
Decision-making is synonymous with leadership; however, many leaders fail to listen before making decisions. Listening carefully to the people around you (including customers) can help you avoid apologies in the end. By listening, we communicate that we care about the people around us, and build a relationship. Listen to suggestions, feedback, and needs of people around you; then contemplate other factors before making your final decision.
4. Establish clear roles & responsibilities
Clear job roles & responsibilities begin the first day on the job. Leaders must ensure everyone knows exactly what their primary roles, responsibilities, and boundaries are so they can perform at optimal levels. Challenges arise when you have multiple people trying to perform the same task simultaneously. Establish guidelines early to avoid confusion and role ambiguity. Once the roles & responsibilities are clear, get out of the way and let your people run!
5. Remove the noise (distractions)
Noise (or distractions) comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The one thing common about all forms of communication is there’s always plenty of noise to interfere. Eliminate noise by making your message as clear as possible and have the receiver repeat back your instructions. This will help reduce the challenge of noise, and assure you your message was translated correctly.
*Bonus Tip: Ask the obvious
For communication to be 100% effective, both sides need to be on the ‘same page.’ There’s no way to know exactly what other people are thinking or wanting unless you ask quality questions. Ask the person what they want/need; ask if the message is clear & understandable; and ask if anyone forgot anything. Finally, ask them what seems obvious! You will discover more times than not, this will clear up many issues.
The bottom line is instead of putting yourself in situations where you have to apologize for mistakes, take actions ahead of time to communicate more effectively. Communication plays such a key role in helping people understand their roles & responsibilities. It can also hold people accountable, ensure they are being trained correctly, and lets them know they matter. When you communicate effectively, you’ll enhance your productivity, your job effectiveness, your relationships, and your customer satisfaction. … and you won’t find yourself having to apologize as much!
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