With communication – don’t say things, cause things

2nd April 2013

I recently ran a consulting project, one phase of which involved helping an in-house training function to deliver better business results.

They were confused because:

  • Delegates loved the training (the Happy Sheets were always excellent); but
  • They didn’t improve performance when they got back to their office (which the delegates’ managers had made very clear)

The more I looked into this, the more the problem became apparent: the trainers thought their job was to train.

But it isn’t.

As I said to them: “your job isn’t to train things; it’s to cause things. If you think it’s to train, you think you’ve completed your job at 5pm on Friday, as you hold a bunch of Happy Sheets. But, when you know your job is to cause improved performance, your job doesn’t stop then – far from it”.

I then explained how they had to step-up outside the training room, by working more closely with delegates and their managers (both before and after workshops), helping embed learnings, coaching how to overcome teething difficulties, and so on.

As you would expect, once they started doing this, the improvement was huge.

So, why tell you this? Because, whatever your job is, your role isn’t to do things; it’s to cause things. Leaders should cause their people to deliver; salespeople should cause their sales to increase.

And you will only achieve this if, every time you communicate, you also remember that your role isn’t to say things, it’s to cause things. So, never start by thinking of your agenda or your content – that’s what you’re going to say. Instead, the first step of your prep is always to consider what you want people to do after your communication. You then deliver a communication to maximise the chance of this happening. Finally, of course, you follow-up until it’s done.

Do this, and your communications become more effective. Don’t, and you become like a trainer focusing solely on their course and not on improving business performance.

Action Point

Two actions this week:

  • Write your job-in-a-sentence by talking only about what you cause. This means you can’t use your job title, key delivery mechanism etc. Once you’ve created this, use it to help drive how you do your job.
  • Look at today’s diary. What’s the “cause” for every communication? If you’re not sure, identify it before you communicate it.

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