How often do you assume someone understands what you mean…. and later find out, they very clearly do NOT?

Miscommunication happens most frequently when we’re not SPECIFIC enough, in both direct feedback and vital praise.

This is true in your communication with your team, your spouse, your kids… and in your marketing.

Whenever you talk about something that you understand as an expert, you have to be conscious that your audience (whether that’s your team, your family, or your ICA) does not know what you know.

They can’t read your mind!

They can’t use all the previous experience you have to come to the same conclusion – and it’s YOUR responsibility (as someone who makes money by serving clientele or students) to be clear and specific enough to help them understand.

For example, I can’t expect my team to do what I would do in a given situation, right?

I have to provide clear and specific expectations so they know what I expect.

Because, my team genuinely wants to do their best work! But if I’m not crystal clear about what I want and need, they can’t do their jobs.

In this episode, I’m diving into the concept of specificity in our communication + how this applies in a variety of ways, including…

Why your critical feedback is more powerful when you’re specific
How you can offer praise that actually makes a difference
And what this means for your marketing plan

Once you’ve listened, tell me what you think about this episode over on Instagram (@emilyhirsh). Your feedback helps me create future episodes of this podcast!

Key Points:
[6:49] Your feedback is more powerful if you’re specific
[9:14] Think about your own experience with feedback
[14:04] If you’re not clear about what you want, your Team members can’t do their jobs
[16:34] What does this have to do with marketing?
[18:01] Go the extra step to over-explain what you mean

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Episode Transcript:

Emily Hirsh:

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are all doing amazing, having a great week, and crushing it out there. I am having a great week myself, currently, as recording this. We’re actually really recording a lot of episodes ahead of time, so this episode won’t come out for awhile, because I am about to have a baby! So, we are trying to get super far ahead so I can take some time off, especially on just content creation, when the time comes. I’m so excited, because I’m definitely in the best place…. I was just talking to my husband about this… that I’ve ever been, going into having a baby, which, for all parents out there [you know] is one of the hardest things, is to have a kid and go through that transition. Life’s never the same after the next one comes.

But mentally, physically, my team, my business, my family, and my relationships are truly in the best place that they’ve ever been, going into having a kid… my house help, all of that, compared to the last two. I didn’t have, necessarily, the setup that I have right now. And so I’m just excited to have the support, but also mentally and physically and emotionally be in a really good place. It’ll still be hard, but it will be just so much better.
When I had my daughter a couple of years ago, I didn’t even have a team. I had my daughter, and I was the breadwinner, and running my company. [So] I was working the next day. Which, to be fair, I see myself [now, ideally] working a little bit. I’m not going to fully take off weeks and weeks, because honestly I don’t know what to do. You’re sitting in bed anyways [right?] I can work on my phone a little bit and talk to my team, because I want to, because it’s my passion, and because it’s my purpose outside of being a mom, and so I know I’m going to want that contact. But the difference here is, when I had my daughter almost three years ago… she’ll be three in April… I had no sales team, I had no ads managers. I was doing everything. I had a little bit of virtual assistants that helped me. But when I reflect on the last three years, it was a nightmare, [I had] no process. It was all on me! So it’s just so much more sustainable when you have a team of people who can support you, and you’re able to take weeks off, if you needed to, and the whole company still runs from marketing to sales to delivery.

That’s one of the most powerful things about growing a company is, when you get to that place and you realize you have that freedom, your business doesn’t own you anymore. And so, I’m excited to bring this third baby into the world, with being in that situation this time, compared to where I was last time […] And you know what, [it’s okay, because] that was my journey, so I don’t think I should have done it any [differently]. I was too new in my business to have a team. But I was doing client calls with my newborn strapped to me, within a week. I can remember walking around with her on a call, to keep her quiet, nursing her while she’s in the carrier, trying to do a strategy call. And I did it, and I did awesome! And I served those clients, I think, really well for where I was and what I was charging, but it’s just so much better with my team.

So today I am talking about being specific. And you’re probably like, “What the heck does that mean?” So, I just finished the book, I actually listened to it on an audio book, Radical Candor, and it was really good. Highly recommend it. It’s a leadership book, and the whole premise behind it is [to] care personally, challenged directly. So having direct conversations, giving direct feedback, but also caring about who works for you. But it’s honestly relevant in everything, it’s relevant in your communication with your kids, your husband, your friends, people that you need to confront. It was relevant for all of that, but it was very relevant for management. And so I read that, and I’m having my […] leadership team read it, so, anybody who manages people, I was like, “Get this book right now. It’s so good.”

And one of my biggest takeaways that I implemented right away after reading the book was being really specific in communication. And I was thinking about it, and I think it’s relevant in so many areas, including marketing. So I want to talk about that a little bit. So what the book talked about was, when you give praise or you give feedback, and [maybe] you’re giving feedback on what they could do better, what somebody could do better, or you’re giving praise, it’s so much more powerful when you can be really specific. And as soon as I read this, I was like, “Man, I could do such a better job at this,” because I definitely get into the habit where you’re just like, “Great job, thank you so much,” or, “You’re doing an awesome job. I’m so glad that you’re part of the company.” […] Or, let’s say I’m giving feedback on something [and] going about it in a more passive way of like, “Oh well I would send this email,” or, “I would do it this way.” [That’s] not very direct, and it’s not specific.

And so the reflection that I had was, we often assume people know what we’re saying when we’re saying something, but the more specific you can be, the less room there is for error. So here’s some examples. Now when I give feedback, but also praise… and I almost think praise is more important, because… [well] praise is more important. There’s supposed to be a 3:1 ratio, three times the amount of praise to direct feedback, so people can take both.
But instead of just saying, “Oh, you’re doing such a great job in your role,” be specific and be like, “I loved how you really went the extra mile to fill out that report. It really made me feel like you cared, and I could tell that you really did some research into it.” And so I’m trying to think of examples that I’ve used, but instantly when I read this, I started doing this. So when I started giving my team praise, especially my direct reports, I was very specific with what they were doing. Like, “Your leadership skills have been amazing this week. I loved how you handled this, this, and this situation,” or “Thank you so much for taking the extra time as you interviewed those candidates, so that we could find the right person. I can tell that you’re really going deep with that to make sure that we find the right hire.” That’s something I just said to someone.

And so, being specific [matters], because otherwise I could just be like, “Great job trying to fill that position,” or, “Great job managing your ads manager,” and I can be really vague. But the more specific I am, then [the better] they know what they’re doing well, and they’re able to take that feedback. Because think about it [from] your perspective, when somebody tells you specifically what you’re doing well, and they’re like, “It’s so cool when you do this,” and they give you an example. [Doesn’t] that feel better than just, “It’s so awesome how you’ve grown your business,” or, “It’s so awesome how you show up online.” Those are cool [things to hear, too]. It’s nice to get the compliments, and it’s so nice to get that feedback, but when you go specific and you take that extra [time], literally seconds, to be specific [with] what you’re saying, you have a deeper level of a connection.

And it worked immediately when I started doing it. And I shared it with my team, I said, “Now, as managers, when you give praise to your direct reports, I want you to be really specific with the praise, really specific with what you’re happy about [what it is] that they’re doing, what you are grateful that they’re doing, and what you are praising… because they can’t read your mind.”

And then the same thing goes with feedback. So, when you have something with a team member, and you’re trying to give feedback, I noticed that I tended to be a little bit more passive. So I would be saying something, and then I would be hoping that they would get what I was saying. So I’d say like… let me think of an example. I’d say like […] “We should probably send a followup email to them and check in.” But I’m saying it like, “Oh, we should probably do this,” and it’s like a suggestion. And then they could agree, and be like, “Yeah, we probably should.” But nobody’s going to own that. Or if I say, “You need to manage the team better, you need to manage people better,” or whatever. That doesn’t give somebody an actual, actionable thing that they can go do. So instead, in like the followup email case, I should say, “I would like you to send a followup email today, a personal followup email, addressing these things.” And then [hearing] back from them, “Okay, yes, I’ll do that by this time.”

There’s no room for error then, in my management, if I am that specific and somebody agrees to it. So now when I go into meetings, or when I go into all team meetings, it’s like, sometimes you talk about… you’ve probably been here, if you’ve been in a team meeting when there’s like four or five, six people… you’ll talk about an idea, and it’s like, “Yeah, we could do this, and we could do this, and we can do this.” And it’s like, [well] who’s going to own what? Let’s be really specific here. So, [maybe], “So-and-so is going to do this, this, and this. You’re going to do this, this, and this. And we’re all doing it by tomorrow.” [The goal is] leaving that meeting with [those] very specific expectations and feedback.

And then […] let’s say I have somebody on my team who’s not being urgent enough in their actions. And so they’re taking a little bit longer to respond, which is actually a relatively common thing I run into, because on the DISC profile, if you’re familiar with it, I’m a 99% D, and that’s Dominant, Driven… And so I act with extreme urgency, in everything I do, “It needs to be done now. I want it done right now, tomorrow, let’s do it, let’s go.” I’m not slow, I don’t operate slowly. But everybody else is not me. And so if they’re not a high D on the DISC assessment, they basically, a lot of people, they don’t have that urgency. And so for me to come in as a manager and expect somebody to have the same level of urgency that I have, just because I think they should, I am actually in the wrong there.

And so I have to be specific with, let’s say it’s, “When a client emails, we have to respond within two hours,” or, “When we have to do X, Y, Z, it needs to be done this quickly. Those are the expectations,” and be very specific. Let’s say they’re not doing that. I could say, “Lately I’ve noticed that this has come up, and we haven’t responded fast enough. Let me give you an example.” Give them an example, [and then], “Instead what I would like us to do is,” give them exactly what you would like them to do.

And it was just like a huge light bulb moment for me, because I think, first of all in the praise, I was definitely not being as specific as I could be. It was more general like, “Great job. I’m grateful for you,” and I also don’t give enough praise, I think. It’s not something that is natural to me, I don’t need it. I’m just like, “Go, let’s do it,” I don’t know, it’s just my personality. And so I’m trying to give more [praise], and slow down just a little bit, to give a little bit more praise, but be specific with my praise. But then the feedback, also, I think I was more passive with it in the past, before reading this book I was more passive with my feedback, [it] was like, “We should do this, or we should do this.” And I was kind of hoping that somebody would catch on, I think, [that] was my thought process.

As a CEO, or even as just a manager, people want to please you, that is your team’s goal. But if they’re not clear how to please you, you’re going to leave them sitting there kind of like, “Well did she mean this, or did she mean this? I’ll try this, and I’ll see if that works.” And so the more specific you can be, the more they know what they have to do their job and achieve goals and meet your expectations.

I’ll give you one last example [for] when you give direction. So we had something come up where I was saying, “We need to follow up with this client,” who was being onboarded, and we hadn’t heard from them, and I was like, “We need to just follow up.” And our billing specialist was following up, but she was just kind of re-sending our automated onboarding emails. In my head, my expectation was, “Send a personal followup email,” which I think she did a couple of times, but she didn’t do it every time. And so, I didn’t know that. I’m sitting there assuming, I’m saying, “We should follow up, we need to follow up with them.” She’s saying, “Okay, I’ve followed up.” She’s resending what they need to do, basically, ‘cause our onboarding emails are very templated like, “Fill out your intake form, do this, do this, do this,” like a to do list. She was just kind of re-sending those for the most part, she did send a couple of personal ones. And I was assuming that she was sending personal followup emails.

And so then, what happened is, the client ended up, they weren’t getting our emails, and then they thought we weren’t sending them, and we were like, “Where’s the client?” Once I looked into it, I’m like, “We should have just sent personal follow up emails, and we should’ve just given them a call.” But I was not specific, and I could argue and say, “Oh that person should have known that.” But no, in their head they were doing what I was saying on the huddle, [they were doing what I was] telling them to do. And in my head, I had a different expectation, but if I would’ve just changed one thing and said, “Can you please send a personalized followup email and give that person a call,” it would have eliminated that [back-and-forth]. It would have been very clear, they would’ve done it, and they would have known what to do to achieve it.

That was a huge light bulb moment for me, because I was like, “I can own this. I can see where the disconnect was. But [instead], I’m sitting here thinking I’m being clear, and she’s sitting here thinking that she’s doing exactly what I’m saying, but I’m assuming she’s reading my mind almost.” And so, [that was like] this little shift in my communication, and it’s already made such a huge difference.

So then I was thinking about this with marketing, and being specific, and how often we assume people know what we’re talking about, because we are experts [and our ICA is not]. And so you write something like a strategy that you’re doing, or something that you do because you’re an expert in your field, but your audience doesn’t know what you’re talking about, and it doesn’t resonate with them, and they’re still confused, and they’re still overwhelmed.
And so, when you’re doing content… let’s say it’s a webinar, or a podcast, or writing, or a post, you have to be as specific as possible, and clear as you can… [You have to be] thinking about, “If I didn’t have all my knowledge, and I wasn’t in my own brain, would I understand what I’m communicating here?” Because the more specific, the more powerful your messaging will be in your marketing.

And so, with let’s say webinar ads, I see [this] a lot. When I look at our students’ copy, the biggest feedback I give is, “We gotta go deeper.” They will write things that make sense to them, because they’re an expert, and they use their language. But then when you really look at it, it’s like, “Is the client or the customer that you’re trying to attract really talking like that? Is that really what’s going to get them to realize, ‘This is something I need,’ or ‘This is content I need,’ or connect with the content?”

And a lot of times, we don’t go deep enough, we don’t go specific enough in our messaging. And so it’s the same thing with when you’re communicating with an audience, you have to be very specific, and you have to go that extra step to really over-explain and over-connect and over… just go deeper, to be able to connect with that person. And I just see this show up so many places. So, in your communication with your team, in directions that you give, or when you write process I see this. I see this with my own team. I have experts who do something like… We have an amazing spreadsheet [specialist], and we call her our data architect. She builds all our spreadsheets. She just rebuilt all of our weekly and daily tracking for our clients and our team. But when she talks, I only understand, sometimes, half of what she’s saying, because she’s talking in her language, she’s talking in her spreadsheet language. And so what I’ve had to do is get her on meetings, with her in my ads team, and break it down so everybody [understands] what everybody’s saying, because my ads team will do the same thing to her. They’ll give her marketing lingo, and say like, “I need lead gen.” And she’s like, “I don’t know what lead gen is. I do spreadsheets.”

And so, there’s that disconnect happening, and I can see it. And so I get in and have to give commentary and background and get everybody on the same page. So I can see it happening when people give explanations, whenever you talk about something that you’re an expert in, a lot of times what we’re doing is assuming that people are reading our mind. And I don’t think we’re consciously assuming that people are reading our mind, it’s just, we just feel like, “I said it clearly,” like, “That’s clear, because I have all of this background knowledge, and this experience.” But you have to remember that that person doesn’t, that person is not in your head, they don’t know your thoughts throughout the day, they don’t your experience that’s creating those thoughts, that’s creating that knowledge, and you have to take a step back, go a little bit deeper, to be able to connect with that person.

So I really enjoyed talking about this. I’ve already noticed such a difference in my communication. I’ve also done it with my husband and with my kids, [being] really specific. Even when I’m telling my kids, “Great job,” at something, it’s like “I really loved how you did this,” and be really specific with them. It just means so much more, and at the end of the day, whether it’s with your direct report or your kids or your husband or your audience, what we’re trying to create is connection. What we’re trying to create is that connection and understanding of what we’re trying to communicate. And the best way to do that is to be specific and go a little bit deeper in the way that we communicate.

Let me know what you guys thought about this episode. Let me know if you had any light bulb moments. Again, Radical Candor was the name of the book. Highly recommend it. I listened to it on audio book, and that was great. I had to re-listen to a couple of chapters, because I listened to it on 1.5X speed. But it was a really good book, lots of takeaways, and I highly recommend it.

So, thank you so much for tuning in today, guys. I would love [an] Instagram message [@emilyhirsh on Instagram], email us, just tell me what you thought about this episode. And if you loved it, and you feel like giving us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to this podcast, I would also really appreciate that. So thanks so much for tuning in, and I will see you all next time.