“I think we should move up the launch date. We’re ready to go, and there’s no reason to wait”, Dave said.
“Okay, we could consider that, but what about the final supplier who wasn’t sure about being able to make the original deadline?” Brandon asked.
“Not going to be a problem”, Dave responded. “It’s fine.”
Brandon looked at Dave for a moment, thought about a couple other things to say or ask, but Dave waved him off, a little impatiently. “It’s fine”, he repeated.
Brandon left the conversation feeling uneasy and unclear. Uneasy because he wasn’t as confident as Dave about everything coming together in time, and unclear because he didn’t see how all the moving parts would work differently than what they had planned originally. But he didn’t ask any more questions. Dave seemed impatient with his questions. Dave seemed to have everything figured out. Brandon didn’t want to appear to be a worry-wart or lacking confidence.
Regardless of the final outcome of the above scenario, we see and hear about these kinds of interactions often. One party is communicating a decision or outcome without communicating the details of how that decision or outcome was reached. The other party is left feeling unsure or uneasy, but also often a little embarrassed to ask too many questions for fear of being perceived as unwilling to act boldly or take risks.
So who should take more responsibility for clearer communication in this scenario?
We don’t control other people or their actions. Dave should take more responsibility for communicating the back story of how he came to this decision to move up the launch deadline. He should share the reasons and walk Brandon through the steps, especially upon seeing Brandon’s uneasiness. And…
We need to show boldness and confidence through seeking clarity. When Brandon didn’t understand why moving this date up was a good idea, or in the best interests of everyone involved, he should have pushed for more information. If he was uneasy about a specific moving part (i.e. the supplier he mentioned) and didn’t receive a complete answer to satisfy his concerns, he has a responsibility to keep asking questions. He has a responsibility to the customer, to the suppliers, and to his team.
Sometimes asking questions alone is just as frustrating for the person being asked. Brandon could also help the interaction by clarifying why he’s asking the questions. He could express specific concerns he has about steps in the process which would make the launch difficult to move up.
Bottom line—everyone involved in a conversation has the responsibility to engage in the clearest communication possible. The more clarity we can achieve early in a process, the better the outcome will likely be. Good luck out there. Don’t be afraid to ask!