State Your Intentions

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State Your Intentions

Communication Pro Tips

I read a post on LinkedIn the other day that was thought-provoking. A gentleman (a CEO) was contacted by a lawyer from a big law firm by phone. The lawyer left a voicemail requesting a call back. This poor CEO was left wondering what the call was about until he was able to get back to the lawyer. It turned out to be completely benign. The point of the post was that stating your intentions when you're trying to communicate with someone is the right thing to do. It's polite and kind.

I shared in the comments on that post that, as a leader, I try to always tell people that report to me why I need to speak to them, so they don't stress about it. In my experience, even high-performing people who should have nothing to worry about still panic a bit when "the boss" wants to talk.

It makes sense when you consider the range of experiences a person may have had. Perhaps they were laid off in a similar manner. Maybe they were summoned to a conversation that went poorly. I typically do something like, "Hello, so-and-so! Can you call me when you get a moment? I have a few questions about the upcoming release." Or, "Hey, so-and-so! I have a task for you. Can you ping me when you get a moment?"

Thankfully, I haven't had to call on people for a negative situation very often. But, I try to follow the same pattern there, too. "Good morning. I noticed your timesheet has not been submitted again. Can you get that submitted and give me a call?"

I was successful with these practices for a while, but I ran into a situation where I missed a chance to state my intentions. I scheduled a meeting with the director over the technical services department. The director was a well-respected leader, but did not have a technical background. I scheduled time to meet with the director, but I didn't state my intentions. The director requested an agenda. I must have made a joke about it or something because I recall that the director shared that providing her with an agenda was useful so they she could pre-consult with her experts or invite one of her experts to make sure the meeting was fruitful for both of us. I expected to come into the meeting with an ask that she would take away, but when I shared my agenda in advance, she was able to shorten the response cycle.

Here are two pro tips for effective communication:

  1. When requesting a chat or call with someone, make sure to let them know the topic.

  2. When scheduling a meeting, be sure to include an agenda or at least the reason why you want to meet.

Do you have any favorite pro tips for professional communication?