Do you know why things don’t happen the way you want them to?
Most probably it’s because of miscommunication.
Even a slight variation will result in a very different outcome. The well-known butterfly effect. It’s your Personal Assistant’s job to make the communication easy and smooth for you. But even the most experienced ones can rely on the past experiences too much so they could misunderstand your new way of thinking.
We humans change constantly. And even if you don’t notice it yourself, everything changes. The words you use, your tone of voice adapts to your mood of project, even the way you write can tell a story about what’s going on in your life. Nobody is perfect, so let’s not make it difficult for each other to work together and make things happen the way you want them to be.
Here are 7 pointers on how to deliver your message or request with maximum chances of getting back exactly what you meant:
TIMING & FOCUS
At some point, your personal assistant will know your biorhythm and we can predict your actions. When you will call, when you will send an email, when you will expect an answer. Although it seems like a small feature – this is exactly what keeps us running fast. Alvin Toffler wrote in his book, The Third Wave, that the relatively predicted points of reference are the key necessary elements in our lives to keep us grounded and secure. Everybody relies of those ‘points of references’ and mostly so unconsciously.
I encourage you to cultivate more of those references as that will make your life a lot more relaxed. We usually call them habits or routines. The great thing about such a routine moment is that certain qualities and vibes are triggered and aligned within us to the certain purpose of such a moment. I call it ‘effortless productivity’. When you communicate at such moments of effortless focus most information comes across just fine. But, at times of crisis or hurry we are thrown off guard. That is when miscommunication happens.
A simple trick to make even those stressful moments count is just to begin your conversation with: ‘I have a request for you.’ Or something like: ‘Please make sure you note this precisely right.’
This activates our mind to switch on ‘task oriented’ listening or understanding and we get the information way more precisely and clearly.
Also, have a specific day or recurring meeting moment when you discuss certain subjects or planning. We will plan ahead better and we’ll have a better overview and tracking of what’s going on. Feedback is important here.
This is by far the most effective tool to eliminate misunderstandings: Ask to repeat your request back to you. Even if you think you have been crystal clear on your message, you have no control over how others receive it at their end. Elements like, mood, health, history, industry knowledge, thinking processes and even goodwill will certainly impact how the information is translated.
To make sure you are on the same page, ask the receiver to repeat what they heard and how they understand it. You will be amazed how often even the simplest requests get lost in translation.
DEVICE & PLATFORMS
Being an on-demand Personal Assistant to various busy entrepreneurs makes me operate daily on at least 7 different medium platforms while conducting an overwhelming amount of communication. Every communication device and every single platform has their own language, specifics, advantages and disadvantages. And the tricky part of modern technology is the auto-correct function. Typing on the run to get across an urgent request usually looks like a cryptic message from outer space…
To avoid most misunderstandings I developed an agreement with each person, depending on their preferences, to communicate certain information on certain devices (at certain times). Like: Urgent matters by phone (so I can clarify on the spot), recurring tasks my email, updates via WhatsApp, quick questions by Skype or SMS (not to overload the inbox). And the good thing about such a system is that it automatically withholds an urgency label.
So get clear with your PA which form of communication will work for you in different situations. That will prepare your and our minds to work faster and more efficiently.
TALK IN DELIVERABLES
This is crucial for us, Assistants, to act accordingly to your requests. To talk in deliverables is not a skill that everybody possesses. First of all, you have to let go of the HOW. Tell us the end results and the specifics of the outcome. That is what matters most, only tell us things that are an absolute MUST.
I cannot recount the amount times that I was chasing a certain brand of something, which didn’t exist for years. Or when I spent too much effort and time on trying to get someone on the phone who hadn’t worked at that firm since last December.
Of course there are situations that need a specific HOW, but most procedures are not worth your thinking capacity. Leave that to us.
USUAL vs SPECIAL
Related to the previous point, please be obvious when you ask something special. We will surely spend more time and effort on fulfilling your wishes. But also remember to tell us when it’s not special and the usual is good enough. It’s a huge time and money saver. Because sometimes, good is good enough.
Deadlines are of course nothing new, although I am surprised each time I work for a new client that they forget to mention when they want the task to be done or are vague about it. ‘Somewhere next week’ is not a deadline. State a date or a timeframe that cannot be otherwise argued. ‘End of next week’ is better in this example.
Also, if you want to make sure your PA feels empowered and as a respected team member, ask if the given deadline is doable and possible. Usually, you have no overview of what’s on our plate and how much we need to get done before tomorrow morning. Most of the times we will confirm the deadline. Just be prepared that sometimes we might ask for a little longer. But also be prepared to be surprised when we’ll get things done before the deadline. We love over-deliverance.
This is an often mentioned topic but nevertheless – still a very important one. When things do go the way you want it, feel free to acknowledge that to your PA. A simple Thank You is good enough. Or even you mentioning that you are satisfied with the progress. Anything showing that we contribute to your well-being is very motivating for us, it helps to keep up the good work. We know it is well – miscommunication kills good spirits, stalls productivity, costs time and money and can even start wars. We know how to try harder to make the communication work. And it will help us if you will chip in.