I was talking with Edward (name changed to protect his privacy) recently. It was our first consulting call. Edward had done a good job preparing for the call, sending me the information that I requested from him. Having reviewed that information, I had some questions to ask Edward and some suggestions for him.

Edward is a very fast-paced person. So fast that I think other people have a hard time keeping up with him. As a result, many things don't get thought through as clearly as they should.

Sounds like me some years ago!

What follows is some advice I gave Edward. You might find a point or two that could be applicable to you.

Define the End in Mind
As a leader or manager, you feel pulled in many directions. You often don’t feel like you have the time to lay things out clearly to your team or those you manage. Consequently, delegating a task is a one-way discourse, without taking the time to make sure the person you are interacting with actually truly “owns” what you and they are agreeing to.

Before any interaction, take a moment and get clear about what is to be communicated. Write down what you want to talk about. With that done, you have a better chance of actually achieving the end you had in mind, which was to effectively transfer information to another member of your team.

Focus on Results, Not Activity
Your clients buy results, like a completed remodel or custom home, that living in will change their lives for the better. They don’t buy activity.

Therefore, to be a better company, help all you work with understand what good results look like. Ask your employees what that means to them. You will likely be surprised by what you hear. Celebrate achievements that move projects closer to completion. And celebrate getting 100% done with something.

Why? Getting things done is how your company makes money. You want all you work with to understand that.

Ask Questions—Lots of Them
If you are so busy trying to get something started, you often skip an important step when interacting with your employees, clients, trade contractors, and vendors. Ask questions. Then ask clarifying questions.

The more you learn about what the person you are talking to thinks, the more effectively you can communicate with them. Yes, questions take time. And they prevent frustration, mistakes, and lower profits from occurring.

Go Slow to Go Fast
I was a very fast-paced carpenter back in the day. I got a lot done. I also was very good with a nail puller because I didn’t always slow down enough to make sure that I was getting things done correctly.

Darrel, who worked next to me in the early years of our company, worked at a slower pace than I did. I always wanted him to speed up. Then I noticed that he hardly ever had to use his nail puller. Why? He was making sure he was building things right the first time. He did that by going slow to go fast.

I never got as good at doing that as Darrel. However, the more I tried to be like him the more effective I became.

Lengthen the Time Between a Stimulus and Your Response
This is the most powerful thing I ever did to help me become more of who I wanted to be and less of “Who I am.”

By noticing a stimulus (yet another thing not going right, for example) and not immediately reacting to it, I was able to make a better choice about my response.

I could see more options instead of behaving in a way that might be off-putting to those I was working with.

This is very simple to describe and takes some time to get better at. Remember that all the other advice I have given you, Edward, hinges on this.

Give yourself and those you work with a holiday present by committing to make some change or changes yourself in the new year. Changes that will make you feel better about the work you and your people are doing. Changes that will help your company be more successful.

You deserve it.