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How to avoid woolly answers and disorganisation

I was set the task of organising our company Christmas outing and with a job title of Marketing Superstar, there was certainly no pressure in pulling this one out of the bag.

When organising even the simplest of activities I think we often take a lot of the skills involved for granted. Some people are instinctively good at clear communication and others don’t seem to be wired the same way.

The task was to ordinate a band of individuals who are located across the country with very diverse work schedules, availability and priorities to meet for an entertaining afternoon puzzling our way out from an escape room and feasting on a festive meal. Sounds simple but when you get more than 3 people together to coordinate this can get a little more challenging.

My method takes the pressure out by giving people a decision to make. Make it simple, give them options A or B. Sometimes I like to simply list the pros and cons of each option. If you approach with a woolly question you are only setting yourself up for woolly answers: What would you like to do? Can you let me know your availability? It may sound silly but when people are in the thick of it they can’t always make those decisions so it falls onto the ‘I’ll get around to that’ pile.

It is much easier for people to answer yes or no – I am available on that date, yes or no I don’t want to do that.

When organising or delivering a project, I hate wasting my time, repeating myself and poor communication. So I try my best to reach out to people how I would like to be approached.

When given a task I suggest to try and loosely touch base with the key parties involved aka your line manager to ensure you are striking off in the right direction and to come up with the foundations of your brief. Now is your time to ask your questions and to try and unpick what it is that they want you to do and be responsible for.

Remember, when you ask your questions, it is not acceptable for them respond with an ‘I don’t know’ or be vague, even if it’s the boss. Don’t accept the answer, in the politest manner possible ask them why they can’t answer or don’t know or have just not replied. Do they need more time to answer? Do they need more information? Is there anything you can do to help them to answer? Keep pushing and get to the bottom of their resistance.

A brief can simply be a list of bullet points or notes. In my case, it was a month, general location, activity idea and meal. By ensuring you are starting off with the correct information will save any unnecessary embarrassment going forward.

Once the core plan has been signed off, look into the details and gather all of the facts. Think about what your team members will ask you. Don’t be lazy, call the organisation, the restaurant you are going to and ask them your queries. Be proactive, don’t just send off an email and wait for a response. Time is precious and you might miss out on the booking for being too slow. Like anything in life strike with impulsion.

When you have gathered all of the information make sense of it yourself. When I am being informed about something I want to receive one email with the options laid out clearly. I don’t want to be digging through multiple emails trying to link two and two together. Take your time over it, don’t rush it as it is amazing how many people just hit the send button and realise they have missed some crucial information. That’s when your communication starts to get messy as people respond to different bits, completely overlook certain information and the result, is a gaggle of confusion.

When reaching out be firm on your deadlines, when asking for a response make it clear they need to respond by a certain time otherwise you will assume they do not want to attend or you will not take further action. It will save the chase of cat and mouse as you try to pin them down to a simple yes or no. Although if it’s your boss that’s a little slow maybe be a little more lenient and send a gentle reminder!