Outside of StatupNation, my passion is for Arabian horses. Horsemanship is a fine art that requires patience and a large quantity of self-reflection. This is because, as a rider, you have to communicate in the most simple and intuitive way what action you want the horse to perform. When I first entered the world of horses, an experienced ranch manager told me after I had a moment of frustration that, “when a horse is not doing what you want, it is rarely the horse’s problem; it is the rider’s problem.” This lesson can be applied not just in the world of horses, but to business as well.
Simplifying your communication helps to improve both the interior and exterior of your business. I hear many business owners – from startups to established businesses – complain that his or her product failed because customers did not completely understand it or, even worse, that the customer wasn’t smart enough to appreciate it. Similarly, many problems within business hierarchies come from too few words exchanged between employees, which leads to assumptions, interpretations and inaccuracy. While it is easy to point fingers at the other party when communication goes awry, I always try and look inward at how my communication techniques could have been improved with the metaphorical horse of the given situation.
How can you be a better “cowboy” in your business interactions? Here are a few approaches I have taken to help ensure my message is conveyed in an intuitive and simple manner:
Quick Subject Lines
When I write emails, I obviously think the content of those emails is worth reading. However, it would be incorrect to assume that the recipient feels the same way. I cannot control how my message is read, or whether it is read at all. Thus, I make sure to make good use of my subject line, using a few words to summarize. I also use my first one or two sentences to outline what I am writing about. That way, even if the person I am writing does not read the whole thing, I have done my best to make sure my message was conveyed.
Landline Phone System
In a cellphone-dominated world, I have found the utility of a landline office phone system that is customizable and intuitive has vastly simplified my communication. Something like the Syn248 business phone system from AT&T, which has multiple lines and gives my employees these same benefits. I no longer drop conference calls, my work phone calls are easily compartmentalized to an office number, voicemails are handled easily, and off-hours calls are handled professionally. This simplicity is something often overlooked but has enormous value.
In the nautical world, when a command is given it is always repeated back to whomever issued it. This gives both parties 100 percent confidence that the message has been understood accurately, which is particularly necessary in foul weather conditions or when commands are yelled across several hundred feet. While I cannot ask others to repeat back to me what I ask them, I have taken on the practice personally. When I am asked to do something, I repeat it back to make sure I understand it correctly. In translating this concept to other fields of communication, I follow up on tasks I have requested of others and I respond immediately to emails. Even if only to say, “I have received this, and I will get back to you in a few days,” it lets the other person know he or she has been heard.
These are behavior changes that I can make proactively to simplify my communication and address my “rider problem” and prevent whoever I am communicating with from not getting the message. Yes, sometimes a botched message is unavoidable, but if I have dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s, then I can direct my attention towards the real problem and not on how the information was or was not delivered.