As a mid-level engineer, James left a design firm to take a job at a construction company overseeing field work. Among other things, he conducted job briefings, gave safety training talks, and explained job order changes to the field electricians.
He prided himself on the thoroughness and detail of his communications. Yet it seemed that no matter how thorough or detailed he was, people just did not understand. His job briefings eventually doubled in length, but still people didn’t get it.
James had seen high-quality work, so he knew these people weren’t stupid. He concluded they simply weren’t listening. So James complained to his boss that people didn’t pay attention to him and this was causing rework throughout the day. James asked his boss to attend a couple of job briefings sessions to see what he was leaving out.
After attending only one job briefing, James’ boss took him aside. The problem wasn’t that he was leaving something out, it was that he wasn’t leaving enough out. His message was getting lost in a barrage of detail and detours that left people “dazed and confused.”
James’ boss told him to grab an empty coffee cup and meet him in the stairway. Once there, James’ boss pointed to the fire hose. “Would you rather drink from that or from the coffee cup?”
If it seems your people are inattentive, take a hard look at the message. Keep it brief and on point. Don’t just focus on what’s important; limit your message to what is important.