Woman very frustrated with hands on her head looking at computer screen

Just Do It

Putting Our Communication to Work

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we need to motivate our colleagues. We may not have any actual authority or influence over them, but we still need to persuade them. Likely, we’ve all been there before. Maybe your team member has a responsibility that they haven’t taken yet. It could be a situation where you feel like you’ve asked someone else to do something 17 times and the dumb thing still isn’t done. It could be a situation where you’re working with someone in a fairly new relationship and you really don’t know how to motivate them to do something.


So, how the heck do we get them to do the thing? Here are three quick tips:


First - Stop and think about what you’ve tried already that doesn’t seem to work.

There’s no point trying the same approach yet another time if that approach has proven to be ineffective. Stop and think about how you communicated so far. Are you communicating in the way that’s easiest for you, rather than what makes sense to them?

  • Maybe you’ve told them but haven’t written it down anywhere.
  • Maybe you’ve sent them an email, but you’ve never talked about it in person.
  • Maybe you haven’t had the time to understand how they communicate, and your natural inclination is to use your own default communication style, rather than theirs.

Whatever it is, be sure you understand what you’ve tried, and what it is that you prefer in a communication.


Second - Switch your focus entirely to them.

How do they usually communicate?

  • Are they a visual learner? Have you seen them draw pictures or read instructions or doodle or jump to the whiteboard with a marker in meetings?
  • Are they a talker? Have you witnessed them sounding out their thoughts to help them take shape?
  • Are they a thinker? Do they seem to reflect on ideas and then come back later with responses or insights?
  • Are they in constant motion? Do they seem to talk with their hands, fiddle with things, or communicate with their whole being by moving around or tapping their foot?

Once you’ve taken a moment to figure out how they usually communicate, you can determine how your communication preferences and their communication preferences match or don’t match. 


Third - Adjust you to meet their needs.

This is, frankly, the hard part, and perhaps the most important. Understanding you and understanding me don’t help us at all unless I actually do something to manage me and connect with you.

In the four stages of emotional intelligence, we talk about self-awareness, then self-management, and then social-awareness, and then relationship management. In each case, being aware must be followed by doing something about it.

  • If 17 times I have looked you in the eye in a meeting and asked you to do something, and you still haven’t done it, then I need a different communication approach. I need to write it down or connect with you in a different situation where we can have discussion and dialogue and help you take ownership in a different way.
  • If something is documented in your roles and responsibilities, but we’ve never talked about it, I need to set aside time to meet with you and talk it through, to confirm your understanding of what it is that you’re being asked to do, and to confirm that you have what you need to get it done.
  • If we are new in our working relationship, then I need to build in intentional time to ask you about how you would like to be communicated with. Together, we need to try different approaches, deliberately and intentionally, eyes wide open, knowing that some of them will work better than others.

If a communication isn’t working, that doesn’t mean the message isn’t important. Many times, we can’t afford to just give up, and rather than allowing our own irritation to build, we should adjust our approach to see how we can make that message reach the intended audience more effectively.


So what about you? How have you adjusted your communications after a difficult situation? Let us know on social media! 


Topics: YP, Sinikka Waugh, Communication & Collaboration

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! contactus@yourclearnextstep.com


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