Communicate with clarity to avoid misunderstanding

Have you had the experience of asking someone to pick up a new responsibility and found that it’s gone sour before things even kicked off?  It’s always important that when we do ask people to volunteer for something new or when we appoint them to a new position that we are very clear about our expectations.

I was working with a nonprofit organisation when I was asked to volunteer for a new role. The organisation was looking to appoint someone to the most senior position, and they were looking to go external with recruitment and selection process. I was asked by the person heading up that process to help them lead things and I was extremely flattered by their explanation of what I had to offer and of course I accepted the role. There was due to be a meeting of the members a few days later at which the selection process was to be explained. I also assumed that my role in the process would be explained too. However, when it came to that point, I found that six other people had been approached by similar conversations in effect there was to be a public election.  Not only was I disappointed with this outcome, I knew that I would not have chosen to stand in a public election but it was now too late to pullout as there was already a nomination paper with my name already on it. 

In this case, the fault might have been with me and my understanding. Through my frustration with this situation, I learned a number of things about being a leader in such circumstances.  When we approach people about taking on a new role or new responsibility it’s very important that we are clear with them about what our expectations are. It’s also important that we think things through from their point of view so that we can understand what they might be expecting to hear and how they might interpret things. As leaders, we need to explain things carefully as what might be crystal clear to us might be far from clear to those we are speaking to.

If you’d like to know more about the emotions of the change process go to where you will you find the leading organisation change series. Please read E-book 1 – the emotional roller-coaster of change.