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Employee communication that’s less frustrating

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Confirm their understanding – don’t assume.

When the pressure is on to get things done on the farm, that’s when communication needs to be running smoothly – between everyone. But that’s also when it can tend to break down the most.

Time is running short. Maybe we think we’ve explained something in a crystal clear way to an employee – a task we want them to do – yet find out later that they misunderstood us in some way.

Communication can be challenging, and farm operations are no exception to that rule. Whether we’re talking with family members or non-family employees, farm leaders can often feel a great deal of anxiety around leading and communicating with others, especially when it comes to getting things done on the farm. It can be frustrating to feel like you’ve explained something multiple times, yet the message still doesn’t seem to be getting through.

Getting clear

This can happen when we assume that real communication has occurred – that the other party understood what we meant. But as host Dean Heffta explained on a recent episode of the Modern Farm Business podcast, it isn’t enough to just tell someone else what to do. When your goal is for the other person to understand you, you need an approach that puts the burden of understanding on them, rather than on you.

In the podcast, a few key questions to think through ahead of these situations include:

  • What things doesn’t this person know – that will affect their understanding?
  • What will they need to demonstrate to prove they ‘get’ what I’m saying?
  • How can we have a discussion to solve this problem we’re working on together, rather than me handing them the solution?

This approach works best when you’re trying to transfer some sort of knowledge to the other person. Basically, you want to confirm that the other party understands what you really mean. You will probably want to ask them a few directed questions to ‘test’ for understanding – to find out where they are in their understanding.

An example discussed in the podcast episode was giving directions to an employee – rather than telling them the directions and then asking if they know where they’re going – you could follow up by having them talk through where they will be going. This helps create more clarity and confidence for them that they do actually know where to go – plus, you’ll know they will get there.

Learn more

Another factor talked about in greater detail during the episode are the ‘filters’ that all people view communication through – six distinct perceptions that different personalities use to filter information in different ways. You can learn more about the six filters and how they impact communication by listening to the podcast episode.

The next time you need to explain something to an employee or family member, consider ahead of time how you’re going to get confirmation that they understood what you meant. It may take a little bit more time up front, but it could end up saving you a whole lot of time later on in terms of ensuring that the right things are getting done in the right way.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

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