Have you ever walked out of a meeting where you had to communicate some key/important/challenging message and felt great?

Woo Hoo! Your message has been delivered!

Job done. High-five.

Until you see or hear that the individual behaviors are not aligned with the message. Now, you are confused, frustrated, or angry instead of congratulating yourself.  

Twice this week, I had conversations with clients about this exact case. 

The message gets delivered

One conversation was with an Exec who was worried that the message the CEO delivered to one of the Exec team members did not land. The CEO was set to discuss re-shifting the Exec team member’s priorities. She was no longer to focus her time on a specific project my client was aligned with.

My client had many conversations with the Exec team member during the week following the discussion. Unfortunately, the Exec team member continued to involve herself in the project, and my client needed clarification.

When I asked my client if she spoke to the CEO to confirm the discussion had taken place, the response she had received from the CEO was, “the message has been delivered.”

But had the message been received?

Something seemed lost in the reception of the message. Or the Exec team member ignored the directive, which seemed out of character. Did the CEO check for understanding? Were there outstanding questions from the team member?

Consequently, there was a lot of extra energy, confusion, and many more unnecessary conversations due to the message not being received.

It may not be as clear as you thought

In the second scenario, a VP discussed the new organizational restructuring with a team lead.

The VP assured all of his direct reports that he was unequivocal in the conversation with the team lead on the new restructure, the new role for the team lead, the new reporting structure, etc.

“The message had been delivered.”

However, that team lead continued to ask my client and others on the team for information about the restructuring. The team leader tried to piece together information from various sources to understand what was happening.

Did he trust the message he received from his VP? Were his questions answered? Did he have the clarity he needed? Apparently, not.

What message was actually delivered?

Again, in this scenario, confusion reigned and caused a lot of frustration for many people.

Not only was it time wasted by the team lead asking everyone for insights, but my client and the VP’s other direct reports were also wondering which message was delivered. 

They spent time talking to one another and speculating on the message, the delivery, and the VP’s behavior.

Lots of unnecessary time and energy wasted.

Check for understanding

The next time you are delivering an important message, make sure to check for understanding. It may not have been received even if you feel you have provided a clear message.

A message that gets lost in translation is not truly delivered, and the costs can be high.