Archive for May 26th, 2012

The onus of clear communication is on YOU, the one doing the communicating

More than a dozen years before its demise contributed to America’s recent financial meltdown, I was employed as a Facilities Coordinator at Lehman Brothers. I will make one editorial comment about that: the end result should have come as a surprise to no one who’d set foot within a mile of the Wall Street investment banking firm any time in those 12+ years.

My job was arranging the internal moves of staff, from senior bankers to receptionists. As a rule, if someone gets promoted in investment banking, they get a bigger office. If a new hire comes in, prior people may need to shuffle, depending on the new hire’s position. Suffice to say, we did a LOT of moving.

On a weekly basis, we updated the floorplans so that everyone who needed the information could see where each banker and associated support staff were located. In order to fit the 11 x 17 flooplans into letter-size in boxes with the floor number showing, we folded them as indicated on Diagram A to the right.

One time, I had a temp assisting me with the seemingly simple job of folding said floorplans in said manner. I showed her how to do it, gave her a sample to take back to her desk with her. Imagine my surprise – and frustration – when my temp brought them back to me folded like Diagram B: quartered and with no portion of the printed side showing, making it impossible to see the floor number. Twenty-five sheets wasted because this gal could not follow instructions.

It’s obviously been a long time since that happened, but I’ve never forgotten that incident. I was reminded of it yet again today when I supervised a recruiting event in which volunteers were asked to collect information from passersby. Depending on the circumstances of the person being questioned, they were asked to complete one of three forms. As I was doing data entry to report our results, it became apparent that either my instructions to my volunteers had been faulty, or we were back in that Lehman Brothers scenario all those years ago. Out of the 21 forms I collected at the end of the event, 4 people had completed the wrong forms.

The book marketing – and life – lesson from this: the burden of communicating is on the one delivering the message, not the person receiving it. What does this mean? Better safe than sorry – so confirm EVERYTHING. All those years ago with the temp, I should have asked her to perform the task in front of me, so I knew she understood. Today with my volunteers, I should have asked them to explain back to me what I was asking of them to make sure they fully comprehended my instructions.

YOU must do the same, regarding:

  • When your editor or graphic designer expects to finish their portion of your project
  • How many copies of your book you’ve ordered
  • When you can expect delivery
  • How much the delivery fee will be
  • The date and location of that speaking event
  • The expected duration of your prepared speech
  • Whether vendor tables are provided for the speakers
  • How many and what form of social media connections you can expect your VA to deliver

Never assume. Always double check. Make sure you understand the questions asked of you – and even more importantly, make sure the people with whom you are communicating fully understand what you want and expect of them.

Happy communicating –



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