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How to minimise negative assumptions, judgements & expectations

In the spirit of collaborative leadership and co-production, when progressing your network, you'll often need to avoid being too prescriptive when soliciting ideas from your stakeholders.

As leaders we want to be open to suggestions, new ideas and foster ownership. However, there is a balance to delivering messages which are not too prescriptive whilst giving people direction. This direction may include providing the rationale or background, templates, funding criteria, payment structures, estimated time commitment, deadlines, key performance indicators, or supporting data.

Without any guidance, invitations for information, ideas or time often lead to many assumptions, messages being lost in translation and can lead to distrust.

The assumption can be positive or negative and, in the eye of the beholder, the assumption is what that person believes in that moment in time. Some people will question the assumption and come back to you with clarifying questions, however, many will not and here is often when a judgement is made and expectations are formed.

When you go to structure your next communication, the following checklist may be useful:

  • Put yourself in the position of the reader. I’m sure they are extremely busy and have multiple competing priorities which all require their urgent attention. With this in mind, make your communications clear and friendly.

  • Choose your communication wisely. Draw on your experiences and past lessons learnt of what sorts of communications are best received written, over the phone or delivered in person (where possible).

  • Take into consideration the needs, wants and context of your audience. Take some time to draft what the benefits are and what’s in it for them.

  • Test your communications before circulating to your wider network. It’s always good to get a couple of perspectives before going live with your communication.

  • Look to address any questions beforehand using frequently asked question documents.

  • Make it easy for people to participate.

A final few thoughts:

  • Once you have found what format works, look to structure your communications in a consistent way. Use subheadings and where possible look to circulate your communication on a consistent day to get people used to receiving your messages.

  • Know that improving your communication is a lifelong skill. Read books, blogs, and look for training opportunities to enhance your skills in this area.

  • Invite, listen and act on feedback. Especially when your communications go unanswered. This is feedback!

  • Don't be afraid to repeat yourself. Despite our best efforts, you'd be surprised at how many of our communications go unseen.

About the author:

Tara Humphrey is the founder of THC Primary Care, a leading healthcare consultancy specialising in workforce transformation and the only consultancy to have worked with 11 Training Hubs across South London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Tara and her team also work with GP federations supporting the implementation of clinical services.

Tara has over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sector and has an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care and is the author of over 100 blogs.

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