A Lesson from Bagels on Communication – (It’s Everything.)

Imagine a tray full of delicious bagels brought to your workplace. To make the day’s carb enjoyment more efficient, you ask someone to please slice all the bagels in half and bag them separately. (After all, you know they’ll need to add cream cheese, butter or jam to make them perfect.) When you get back to the break room, you see your request was completed… but it’s not at all what you wanted, and it won’t help your coworkers make a perfect bagel at all.

This experience is a good reminder to always err on the side of over-communication. It may feel time consuming, but it often prevents confusion and mishaps later on. Here are some tips to be clear with your communication:

Fill them in from the very start. It helps to get everyone up to speed during the early stages of a project. This way, your team is more likely to understand WHY they’re completing a task. (Example: Because I want to put butter on the inside of my bagel.) And the customer knows why things will be done a certain way. It can also eliminate surprises and help you address issues before major deadlines. (Example: We don’t have a bread knife, and I’ve never had a bagel in my life.)

Share it again. Rather than expecting your team or the customer to shuffle through long email chains and notes, make it as easy as possible for them to find what they need. Have a quick phone call, share screen shots, or copy and paste material from previous communication if it could possibly reduce confusion. Checklists and bullet-lists are helpful when communicating a lot of information in a shorter format.

Check in frequently. Let your team and the customer know that you’re available for any needed clarification, and check in regularly to ask how things are going. If something is taking more (or less) time than you thought it would, there may have been some miscommunication. Checking in gives you the chance to manage these issues before they become major delays or other concerns.

Remember, when it comes to working with a team and customers, you can never be too clear. Over-communication is efficient communication.