How Poor Communication Leads to Lost Opportunities

As we shoot out of the starting gate into a (hopefully) strong rebound year in 2011, I can’t help but wonder if the collective poor judgments exhibited in the past by our not so stellar politicians, educators, and business leaders may doom us to greater failure at a critical crossroads in America’s 21st century future.

Let me share with you a story that might shed insights into how our own actions lead to often missed opportunities due to nothing more than plain old poor communication.

Late last year I met for lunch with a client that I had served for two years. He is the Executive Director of a major industrial development organization in the NY Metro area. He leads a team of nine people that deliver a wide range of employee placement and business services to 1,400 organizations throughout New York City.

During our two year relationship, I had delivered training and development programs for his staff and coached him in key areas of running his business.

He wanted to meet before the end of the year, because he was considering a career move and wanted to brainstorm ideas before January. We talked about our mutual challenges (him in leading his organization, me in continuing to grow my business consultancy.) I confided that over the past 2 years I occasionally thought about closing shop and going to work for an organization. We parted ways in agreement that I would provide him with career transition guidance and continue working with his staff to deliver coaching.

A week later, he emailed me the link to a job opportunity for a Director of Continuing and Professional Studies at a university in NY. His message read: “What do you think of this?” That was all.

Well, given that I have worked with over 30 colleges and universities and deliver many career coaching and business consulting services to academic institutions, I thought he was sharing a possible job lead. I applied for the opportunity and emailed him to thank him for thinking of me.

He replied immediately. He said that he was thinking of the position for himself, and wanted to know what I thought about it. He then demanded that I rescind my application as a requirement for us working together in the future.

I immediately attempted to do so. I informed him that I wasn’t able to withdraw my candidacy. I apologized profusely and attempted to explain the reason for the misunderstanding.

That was three months ago, and despite many attempts to contact him he has not replied.

So the lesson learned? Due to a simple misunderstanding, two people that had forged an excellent working relationship no longer do business together.

Many of the greatest challenges that we face in achieving success in the workplace, launching/growing a business, achieving effective partnerships, serving clients…all of these can be achieved by maintaining open, honest dialogs through effective communication.

How many opportunities have you lost out on, due to plain old poor communication?

Think about our dysfunctional 2 party political system, spending most of its time and effort fighting to thwart each others’ initiatives? How about our business leaders who react to every challenge by initiating massive employee layoffs. How about our education administrators who scramble to develop policies to deal with falling American student performance with such foolish programs as No Child Left Behind?

So many of our problems can be reconciled through the power of open, ongoing and honest communication. Sounds like a GREAT New Year’s resolution, huh?