Closing the Loop
We have shared a lot of communication tips over the years. Likely too many to even count. But, now is the time to share with you our very favorite communication technique.
Closing the loop.
We love to close the loop! We have found it to be one of the simplest, most impactful communication techniques, and we couldn’t wait any longer to share it with you. So here are the details.
What does it mean to close the loop?
If you think about communication as a loop ("Sender" sends a message, "Receiver" receives the message, decodes it, and sends back a response), closing that loop means giving feedback to the communication sender to let them know that you received the message they sent.
- Closing the loop means confirming receipt when someone sends you a message, by email or otherwise.
- Closing the loop means responding out loud when you're in face-to-face communication with someone and they've made a comment or asked a question.
- Closing the loop means communicating back on assigned tasks or open questions to let any interested parties know that the task is done or the question is resolved.
Why should I close the loop?
Closing the loop is our favorite tip because of just how powerful it is. One little action and a whole lot of problems are solved or prevented entirely!
- Closing the loop prevents unnecessary churn because the other party isn’t left wondering “I wonder what ever happened to…”
- Closing the loop serves as a record for everyone involved of what’s been done, any questions that are left to be answered, and what action items are left to complete.
- Closing the loop also helps to establish you as a highly effective communicator.
What response should I expect when I close the loop?
Generally, you won’t get an immediate response to closing the loop. That would be like getting a thank you note for a thank you note. But over time, the response that you will see is an increase in trust and respect. Those you work with will begin to rely on you more. They will have confidence in your work and your follow-up. They will communicate more freely with you, knowing that you have demonstrated an ability to close the loop well
One important note to bear in mind on this: "closing the loop" is a habit. Just because you've closed the loop once, or maybe you've closed the loop effectively for a month or two, that doesn't mean you're done. Loop-closing is an ongoing habit, a daily choice to communicate well.
Okay, really, how do I close the loop?
Here are a few words that might help you to close the loop.
- When something is assigned to you, or when there is an open question to a group of people that you can answer try saying something like “I’ve got this one!”
- After you’ve completed a task that impacts others, be sure to let everyone else know by simply saying something like “This is done.”
- If someone is sharing opinions that you disagree with, or ideas that you don't share, try words like "I'm listening" or "I understand" or "I hear the words you're saying" or "Thanks for helping me understand where you're coming from"
- If a question has been asked, and you don’t know the answer or can’t provide an answer on the spot, don’t ignore it. Let the sender know their message reached you by saying something like “I heard you and I can’t answer right now, but I will get back to you.”
- If someone sends you a note or a text or if information that they sent to help you or improved your day, close the loop with a simple "Thanks" to let them know you got it.
We hope you find this technique as helpful and impactful as we have over the years. We know communication is critical. But we also know it can be really hard at times. We have found that closing the loop makes it easier. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!