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My Top 3 Tips for Moving Communication to a Decision Point

Joe mantua's says keep it simple, anticipate questions, and listen.
Joe Mantua cites keeping it simple, anticipating questions, and empathetic listening as keys to effective communciation.

When it comes to communicating to influence or help get to a decision point, I like to focus on three things. Whether it's your boss, senior management, or a governing board, I think these tips will help you get the results desired.

First, keep it simple. It can be very tempting to go into great detail and provide a lengthy case for what you are recommending. Let’s face it, you put a lot of work into this and want them to see how important it is. Focus on the end result and what it will take to get that desired outcome. The challenge is providing just enough information so that they understand the situation and the options, without losing them.

Second, put yourself in their role for a minute and think about what you as the board member, decision maker, etc., need to know in order to be ready to pull the trigger. Usually, it's going to center around how much it will cost, how long it is going to take, and who (and how) will they be impacted. Try to anticipate their questions and don’t just be ready for them, incorporate the answers into your presentation. A key for this one is knowing your audience. Based on your experiences with each decision maker, you should be able to predict what they will ask, and that comes with knowing their interests and what makes them tick.

Finally, effectively listen. If not properly asked or worded, questions will often be misinterpreted and ultimately not be adequately answered, which can lead to confusion or conflict in future discussions. Take the time to really listen to what is being asked, repeat back how you interpret the question and get confirmation. The other trick here is being able to sift through the words and get to what they really want to know. It may not sound logical but sometimes the question that is asked is not at all what they want to know. This is another area where knowing your audience can be extremely helpful.

Effectively communicating is probably one of the hardest things we all have to do every day, so keep working at it! I hope this has been helpful.


Joe Mantua is the General Manager of Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority (BJWSA). He is a past President of the international American Water Works Association (AWWA) and currently is active in several water utility organizations at the regional and national levels. Joe is a licensed professional engineer and holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Dayton.

Joe has more than 38 years of experience in the water utility industry in both the public and private sectors. Prior to joining BJWSA, Joe was the Deputy General Manager for Operations at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in Laurel, MD and also spent several years at Black & Veatch, a global engineering consulting firm.

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