The proverb “measure twice, cut once” is attributed to Anglo Italian John Florio (1553–1625) who was a linguist and language tutor at the Court of James I.

I have a rule that I talk about in training and business all the time and it’s “Slow down to go faster!” Most errors in business can be traced back to one simple thing, miscommunication. Simple misunderstandings between colleagues, departments and especially with clients can cause significant and expensive damage to both business finances and reputations.

We are all in such a rush to get the ‘job done’ that we don’t check we are actually doing the job right. We assume all is okay until something goes wrong, rather than making sure all is correct before we start.

To expedite things even quicker we use jargon and a myriad of three letter acronyms (TLAs) across our businesses. Do we actually check if the client’s understanding of OUR jargon matches their own? Misunderstandings cause errors that are always ‘paid for’ by the provider of the goods or services and NOT the buyer, EVEN if it is their error!

I have a solution that is genius in simplicity and simply needs people to say exactly what they mean and mean exactly what they say. When both parties do this then mutual understanding means that each one has the same clear blueprint of exactly what has been agreed.

Effective communication requires the complete removal of all words and phrases that could have a variable, for example “urgent”.
Instead we must clarify what “urgent” actually means to the person requesting and agree an exact timeframe that is acceptable to both parties.
Listen to people in your office when engaged in telephone and face to face discussion. I guarantee you will hear people jumping in and interrupting each other and when they do this neither is truly listening. Even if they allow the other person to finish speaking, have they REALLY understood every word AND the meaning behind the words?

True listening requires 100% focus so don’t multi-task unless the other task is something you can do without thinking (an unconscious competence). When you have allowed them to finish, ask clarification questions and then, when you think you have mutual understanding, paraphrase back to them and seek confirmation.

Make “measure twice, cut once!” or my version “slow down, go faster!” part of your office communication culture and I guarantee you will rapidly see positive results.

Does this extra effort in communication take longer? Yes it does BUT the reward for mutual understanding is far less errors! Less errors mean more time is focused on proactive business rather than firefighting. Customer service scores will rocket and happy customers are loyal customers.

Thank you for reading.

Stuart Allen FCMI FInstSMM

The Sales Performance Company Ltd