Crucial Conversations – A Lesson in Improving Business Communication


Editors note: Welcome to our Guest Blogger, Dave Haviland of Phimation!

I made a comment to several company leaders last week that gave us a good laugh – and a good insight.

My wife and I got into a fight a few weeks ago over …[wait for it]… whether or not we have effective communication.  (Yes, that brought huge laughs…)  As is often the case, we were both right, and there’s a lesson in our argument for business owners.

My wife thinks we have effective communication because 90-95% of the time it works.  She’s right, and we should feel good that we’ve created that.

I think we don’t have effective communication yet because the 5-10% of the time that it doesn’t work are the most important and challenging issues.  We cover the basics well, but the really hard stuff is where a lot of the value is.

The reality is that those are 2 very different types of communication.  For the basics, the point is to handle things quickly and efficiently – “minimize the administrative overhead,” which is why standard processes and tools are helpful, and why my wife and I can do this well after 20 years together.  For the hard stuff, the point is to take the time to build a mutual understanding of the situation, create several possible solutions, clarify what’s important, and have a deliberate decision process – which is why having 20-year patterns in our marriage can work against us when new issues inevitably show up, and why it is helpful to keep trying new things and listening to experts when we take on new issues.

The lesson for business leaders is this:  most of the time, it just takes some effort to make your business perform.  If you put in place some relatively simple management tools and processes, you’ll take care of 90-95% of what’s happening.  That’s good.

But 5-10% of the time, it’s going to be hard and complicated.  If you just focus on the 90-95% that’s being handled well, you’ll feel good on the surface, but you’ll be limiting yourself and hurting your business in the long run.  Because there’s a lot of long-term value in those few items that are complicated.

The key is to make most of your business simple, so that you then have the time, money, and energy to deal with the hard issues.

Handling the simple stuff with simplicity, and the complicated stuff with sophistication, is how you get great performance from your business.  (…and satisfaction in your marriage…)

If you’d like to improve communication in your business, check out the book Crucial Conversations.

Post By Dave Haviland (6 Posts)

Dave specializes in strategic consulting to leadership teams at Stage 2 businesses to help them clarify their business goals, improve how they market products and services, boost internal productivity and successfully leverage new business and employee opportunities. He serves on the board of directors or advisors at several companies. He also has been a featured blogger for Crain’s Detroit Business on matters related to business growth, speaks regularly to professional associations, is actively involved with the Saginaw Valley / Stevens Center for Family Business and Walsh College’s Leadership Institute, and is regularly quoted in publications including Inc. Magazine and the American Management Association’s newsletters. Dave's interests outside of strategic consulting include travel, playing hockey and many other sports, raising 3 young kids, and lying around on a warm beach whenever he can.

Website: → Phimation - Stage 2 Business Management Consulting


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