My husband is a pretty decent cook. The other day he made an incredible spaghetti sauce. I asked what made this particular batch so doggone good. He said maybe it was using ground lamb instead of ground beef. Or maybe it was the fresh basil or the peppadews (sweet peppers)? Or maybe it was the lengthy simmer/cook time? I quickly realized that I shouldn’t expect this particular sauce to be a repeatable event. Bummer.
But that got me thinking about how a few key ingredients, that if added, can change an event’s outcome. For example, adding a few key ingredients to an average communication can turn it into benchmark communication. In and of themselves, these ingredients are not really “communication,” and “communication” can happen without them, but they make a significant difference when used. So what are they?
Stop and really listen. Patiently allow people to get to the bottom of the issue they are attempting to explain, (e.g., let them finish their sentence). Patiently ask for clarification as many times as is needed. Patiently work to overcome people’s fear. Patiently try to communicate well.
Contrary to popular belief, curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Curiosity is a good thing. A tenant of Six Sigma is the “Five Why’s”. Try asking someone “Why” five times in a row and you will be able to drill down to the right level of detail. Curiously want to understand why people want to tell you something. Curiously want to know why they don’t want to tell you something. (Maybe last time you weren’t patient with them?) Curiously explore to expand your own learning. Curiously reach out to people and make them feel safe in teaching you. Curiously ask enough questions to learn what you need for everyone’s success.
It’s not that you don’t have the time for “X”, it’s that you don’t have the priority OF time for “X”. If this is the case, maybe you need to adjust your priority OF time. Make time to remember who needs to know and what they need to know. Intentionally find ways to keep the “conversation” going, so communication happens real-time. Manage your own “world” so you don’t crash everyone else’s.
These three ingredients — Patience, Curiosity and Time — are repeatable, scalable and doable. Every week. Every day. Every hour. Every meeting. Every conversation. I just wish my husband’s sauce was…