How to Ensure Your Team Is “Trimming the Right Tree”

How much time is lost within your tree care company due to the team questioning decisions, trying to figure out their purpose, or understanding the “Why” behind what you are communicating or asking them to do? It may be a difficult question to answer but I guarantee that if you investigate it further, you will identify some areas of your business that could be enhanced by ensuring that the “why” or the reason behind certain things is intentionally and transparently communicated. Intentional communication not only helps to build trust but ensures that your team is always heading in the same direction with a purpose and in an efficient manner.

Imagine sending your best tree crew out to a job site with a partial work order. Perhaps the work order simply said trim the tree located on Main Street for the Jones family. How efficient would that crew be in getting that job done? They would spend all their time trying to figure out which tree you were talking about, and was it Bill Jones at 300 North Main, or Sally Jones at 150 South Main? With a work order such as this, there is a high probability that the job would not be done efficiently, could lead to the incorrect tree being trimmed and the job possibly never getting done because the team would be frustrated as to the amount of time they are spending trying to figure it all out. This is of course an extreme example; however, it is relevant as you begin to work on understanding and improving intentional communication within your company.

Another way of thinking about intentional communication is in this manner, does the recipient of your message have the necessary information to fully understand the why and your intent along with all the information regarding what you are communicating? If you can answer yes, they you have provided them with intentional communication. If you are unsure, then chances are you are leaving them with the opportunity to interpret your message in their own manner. The window to interpret what you are saying in a way other than what you have intended introduces loss time and energy spent by the recipient trying to ‘figure’ it out. To help introduce this concept into your organization I encourage you to look at two aspects of intentional communication: intentional listening and intentional speaking.

Intentional Listening
A mentor of mine once ask me a question during a conversation we were having about a project we were working on. The project was quite complex and was something that I did not necessarily agree with how we were approaching it. During the conversation he stopped me and asked, “Kevin, are you listening to me to understand, or are you listening to me to be right?” As I look back at that conversation now, I kind of laugh because I was totally listening to be right instead of listening to understand. Throughout that conversation I recall constantly thinking to myself, “that is not correct, I would do that differently, and nope that’s not possible” instead of clearing my mind and listening for the intent and the why behind what my mentor was trying to tell me. Looking back the conversation could have taken perhaps 30 minutes instead of an hour which would have given us both an extra 30 minutes back in a typically very busy work environment.

 Intentional listening is all about ensuring that you receive the message from the other person as they INTENDED and are you actively listening for their intention. It is certainly appropriate to ask clarifying questions, but it is important to focus on listening for understanding as opposed to trying to be right or develop a response while missing out on the true context and intent of their message.
Some tips for ensuring intentional listening include:

• Check your perceptions at the door – focus on their intention not your perception

• Check your ego and remove the need to be right or look good

• Ask clarifying questions, but do not make it about you

• Help them create the content by pursuing their context through your listening

• Provide them with active listening by leaning forward, nodding your head, providing eye contact

• Be engaged in the conversation!

Of course, it is a lot easier to listen with intention if the person providing the message is also speaking with intention. Intentional communication is most effective when both parties are providing and listening for intent.

Intentional Speaking
The second aspect of intentional communication is Intentional Speaking. This is even more important as you begin to improve communication within your organization. The key aspect of intentional speaking is to remember that you are responsible for the other person “getting it” or understanding it. This can be done in several different ways; however intentional speaking is most effective by asking yourself the following regarding your message:

• Am I providing the context for what I am communicating – The “why”

• Am I providing them with my intention?

• Am I providing them with what my intention is not?

•Am I communication with the appropriate person as the recipient of this message?

• Is this the appropriate timing for this message?

• Is this the appropriate location and vehicle for this message to be communicated?

A very easy approach to intentional speaking is to ask yourself, am I giving them the “full work order” with my message or am I providing my team the opportunity to interpret my message and “trim the wrong tree?” If you are not providing the context for why you do what you do or say what you say, you are giving others permission to make up a reason why you did it or said it. The recipient trying to “figure it out” can lead to loss time, lower productivity and ultimately lower team morale and trust.

Intentional communication does not happen overnight and requires a personal commitment to the team and each other to fully realize its impact within an organization. However, just like a detailed work order, it will ensure your team is always on the same page, has the context around your communication and decisions, and will lead to a more dynamic and supportive work culture and environment.

Written by: Kevin Martlage