After talking for nearly thirty minutes, I stepped off the stage and into the sea of volunteers. I had just spent the last half an hour talking to my volunteer teams about where we were headed…what the next year was going to look like…and what I was going to be expecting out of them if they were to be a part of the “team.” During the talk, I looked for the usual non-verbal responses…eye connection, seat positioning, head nodding and such. They got it…they understood it…they liked it…or so I thought.
I spent the next hour answering questions. Questions related to how this was all going to happen…I thought…wait…didn’t they just listen? At first, there was frustration. How could they not understand…why didn’t they just listen? And then…it set in…no matter how clearly I spoke at them…they wanted this communication to be a conversation.
They had bought in…but they were curious and really wanted to understand. Their questions weren’t challenging my goals…they were questions that brought about cemented change in their life and my conversations with them were what was going to last.
Since this time in my life, I now understand that having a hundred conversations like this was way more effective than any 30 minutes I had prepared. Good communication is based off of listening skills and if you cannot listen with intent…then you will be your ability to create change will suffer.
Undersand that people will often agree to your comments without ever buying in to them. They will nod their head…say yes…say they understand…even if they don’t. They may really want to understand, but for fear of looking ignorant…they simply appease. How do I know this? I do it…and I have seen others as well.
As a leader, understand that your ability to communicate and be an active listener will be the rock from which your platform will be built. If you have vision, goals and passion…they cannot be under communicated. Over-communicate. Have as many meetings as it takes for your verbiage and goals to become theirs. You cannot accomplish your goals alone, and if your patience for communication is lacking…I have found…that your ministry will be as well.
Here are some ways I try to be more effective with my communication…emphasis on try:
- Be an active listener. For more information on Active Listening…click HERE
- Learn to ask clarifying questions like, “Does that make sense?” Interpret their body language as they respond.
- Try to limit your assumptions of what they understand. Assuming the other person understands something can lead to miscommunication.
- Finish your meeting with a plan. Re-communicate the plan and see if they can repeat it to you. Make sure you are not dictating the plan…but ask the question…”So, where do we go from here?”
- Answer your phone or at least return the voicemails. Weeks come and go quickly in ministry…but for the volunteer…the days can pass a little slower.
- Answer your e-mail. You may not have the appropriate answer on hand. But respond to their e-mail letting them know you’ll work it out. Follow-up.
I pray God gives you the tools to carefully craft His dream for your life. I pray you have the patience to ask as many clarifying questions as it takes. I pray we all…get a litte better.