Are you wasting time? Then try
Time Saving Conversations
"This is just wasting time. I’m so annoyed at having to do this now," Nicole thought to herself. The problem should never have happened. We spoke about what the client wanted. I’m frustrated! All of this was going through Nicole’s head as she was fixing the issue that had developed with one of her biggest customers.
The special order was late AND when she went to check on it she found that it was also wrong.
“How does this happen?” she said out loud, to no-one in particular!
Excellent question. These sorts of mistakes happen everyday - wasting time for you and your team. How do they happen? Often is because of poor communication.
You can have Time Saving Conversations and rather than time wasting conversations.. If Nicole and her team had Time Saving conversations she would not be wasting time fixing the problem right now.
Time Saving conversations involve three key things:
1. When talking, be succinct and summarising the key point(s) at the end
2. When listening repeat back what you believe are the key points the other person has made (in groups ensure that each person gives their understanding)
3. Question for clarification and Challenge assumptions (show courage)
4. Clearly identify actions, including “who and when”
Let’s go back to Nicole for a minute. Nicole and two of her team members had a meeting about the special order. They had a good discussion about how important it was to get it right for their big customer. They spoke about how the special details were “tricky” but could be done. The meeting went over-time and they then rushed to their next appointment. Sound familiar. It should, because I have seen this in EVERY organisation that I have worked in or coached at.
So, what should have been different about the communication to allow you to stop wasting time? Firstly, just clear action steps with a person and timeline assigned would have made a huge difference. But, there is something else equally important. You see in the meeting Peter (Customer Service Manager) was thinking to himself, “can we really do this in the time?” and he asked the question, which was answered quickly with “we have to” and then the conversation moved on. Peter didn’t raise his concern again. Simone (Key Accounts Manager) assumed that production knew what to do for this special order, but didn’t ask the question in the meeting or afterwards.
Time Saving conversations identify assumptions and bring them out in the open. Time saving conversations accept people have different perceptions and bring them out in to the open. Actions steps from the meeting would have been helpful – even more powerful would have been a succinct, clear discussion about assumptions and perceptions (including concerns).
Why weren’t these things included in the conversation? Usually it is because most people prefer to avoid conflict and want to look good to other people. Yet, this means important information is NOT shared. It is often these unspoken aspects that cause problems later on, like they did for Nicole.
Getting back to Nicole’s situation -- turns out the time frame for the special order was too short and it was impossible for production to complete it on time. And the special details for the order were not clear to production so they made something similar which could be done quickly (the order would only be a day or two late).
Now Nicole (a senior manager) had to spend the whole day sorting out the mess – half of which was just trying to find out what went wrong. She went to see the client and smoothed things over, getting them to take some of the order, but also promising the special order will be made for them URGENTLY! (Does the cycle start again OR create a problem with another client?)
Are you brave enough to stop wasting time and have Time Saving Conversations?
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