Thanks for sticking with me here. I’m sure you’re starting to appreciate the increased clarity you’ll have in your work relationships by putting together an Upfront Agreement that includes all of these essential components.

The third component you’ll want to discuss in your Upfront Agreement is:

Communication Challenges and Preferences

Take time to explore, ask questions and investigate options about how the two of you will communicate. You can use these questions as a guide:

  • How does each of us like to receive information? (Written? Verbal? Email?)
  • How are we most comfortable giving information?
  • What’s important about the way we speak to each other?
  • Who is responsible for making sure we understand each other?
  • Are we open to receiving any kind of feedback from each other, as long as it’s delivered in a respectful and professional manner?
  • What will we do if we don’t know or don’t understand something?

This last question may seem obvious: if you don’t understand, of course you should say so–of course the other person would want you to speak up. But many people will get the impression that “not knowing” is somehow wrong or shameful. So spell it out: it’s okay not to know. Or, as one of my clients put it, “It’s okay not to know–what’s not okay is if you don’t know and you don’t let me know.”

Personal Communication Statements

Once you’ve got clarity, you and your team member will create a brief Personal Communication Statement that summarizes your answers to the above questions. Your Personal Communication Statement should then be integrated into the Upfront Agreement.

A Personal Communication Statement (PCS) describes how you want others to communicate with you. While at first glance it may seem obvious–everyone wants to be treated professionally, and with respect–in fact, individuals have individual preferences, and it’s helpful to identify them when you start working together. If you haven’t asked this question before–how would you like to communicate with each other?–you may be surprised to find that people do have strong preferences that would not necessarily have occurred to you.

Here are a few examples:

I operate best in an environment where I know the facts, what is expected, and where we’re headed. I expect my coworkers to be truthful with me and inform me of mistakes I have made or ways that I can improve.

I like to use humor when appropriate to lighten the day-to-day tensions. However, I don’t like sarcasm or “jokes” that are made at other people’s expense.

Sometimes I need time to respond to questions. I’m not always good at having the answer on the spot. So when we’re communicating, I need you to not pressure me for an answer right at that moment. Please give me time to think about things first, so that I can do my best thinking.

Do you see the potential power of having this kind of honesty and directness in your communication, [first name]?

Next time, we’ll talk about how asking for permission is a crucial step in the Coaching4Accountability system.


P.S. Do you want some help getting started with a Personal Communication Statement?