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#983: Are You Clear With Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 10, 2009
There are times when I realize, after the fact, that some of my client’s staff were not on board with the improvement plan we discussed in a workshop. What are some ways to improve communication?

Communication is among the most important of every consultant’s skills. Many consultants express themselves very clearly in writing and orally, but not all follow up to assure that their ideas and/or instructions are fully understood. Communication is a two way street and it is not enough to be articulate if you use words, concepts or a speaking or writing style unfamiliar to the recipient. Also, each new client environment presents a new communication culture for you to learn. Finally, consultants come with some baggage, as perceived by many client staff. You may be seen as an unwelcome intruder, despite the enthusiasm of your client sponsor. Staff may be reluctant to hear what you have to say.

It is worth some study of communication styles and techniques to be sure your message gets across. Attending to your own body language, thinking before speaking, effective listening, balance between sending and receiving information, and concepts such as the Johari Window all can help you improve your ability to understand and be understood. Take a little time to learn some new ways to know when your messages are not getting through, or vice versa.

Tip: One mistake many people make is to ask people to whom they are talking, “Do you understand what I am saying?” This puts a psychological burden on the person who, if they did not fully understand, is more likely to say they did understand. The alternative is to admit that they are responsible for the lack of communication. Instead, say, “Did I make myself clear?” This relives the listener of full responsibility for understanding. You may be surprised by how many times people will respond that they did not understand!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  customer understanding 

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