How to avoid conflicts by using a proper communication system

Avoiding conflict by using proper communication.

Conflict is really common in the building industry. It’s common between you and your employees and it’s common between you and your customers. You can have a conflict about money, when jobs are completed and about who is responsible for what. Many things can be the subject of conflict. And of course, almost all conflict comes because two parties had different understandings of the same situation. One person or one party thought one thing and the other thought something else and bang, we come into conflict.

So I’m going to tell you that it’s misunderstanding and miscommunication that causes the conflict in the first place. And of course, it’s your responsibility to avoid that conflict by taking on the responsibility of communicating clearly and properly in the first place.

I’m Jon from Small Fish Business Coaching. I help trades business owners grow and scale, and put systems in place, and structure in place so you can grow and scale and make more money. And part of that is communication systems and communication structures so you can avoid conflict which causes a waste of time and often costs you money as well.

It goes back to that misunderstanding.

I was working with a client and he’s had some conflicts with his staff. In fact, he lost a couple recently in such a bad situation that they almost came to blows. And he wasn’t completely at fault but we did think about how he could have handled things differently, and of course, it goes back to that misunderstanding and those two different understandings of the situation, and what he could have done differently. And what he’s going to start doing differently, is making sure that him and his staff have the same understanding of situations.

Now I confess, I do it to. I think we all do. We’re all guilty of this. This is what we normally do. We go, “Bla bla bla. We should do this, and this. And then that and that. And then go there and then do this and then go there and do that. And then you’re okay.” And then off we go, bang! “We’re out of here. We’ve got things to do. And then we’re pissed off when the person we’ve instructed doesn’t do what we wanted.

It’s the same with customers, right?

“We’re going to do this for you, then we’re going to do that, then we’ll do this, you have to do this and then we need you to do that, and then I’ll do this, and then you pay.”

And that doesn’t necessarily go how we want either and it’s our responsibility as the business owner as, the leader of our team, and as the person communicating with our customer to make sure they get the understanding, right?

It goes wrong in two places.

So I’m going to give you a simple system to follow or process to follow, to help you avoid this conflict and to help you communicate clearly. It goes wrong in two places. It goes wrong when they don’t get the right understanding of what you’re communicating to them. When either you didn’t communicate clearly or they didn’t get it and understand it properly.

And I’ll just point out that you’re really the expert. You’ve been doing it for years, you’re an expert, you’re the boss of the company. So to blurt out a load of stuff to either a customer or to an employee risks that they who have a lesser understanding and less experience and expertise can’t assimilate it and accommodate as quickly as you can. So just going, “Wah, here’s more of my stuff,” is probably going to miss them. So you need to take the time to help them understand it properly. And the other thing is people forget stuff. You can’t just blare a load of stuff at someone and expect them to remember it again like you can. Because they won’t.

Recommended Reading: Teamwork and Leadership: Are you doing it?

3-Step Process help you avoid this conflict

Here’s the 3-step process:

    1. Communicate clearly. Not rapid-fire. Don’t just rattle it off, and then leave. Communicate clearly and slowly.


    1. Check that they’ve understood. Check that they’ve understood each step. Don’t give them 10 things and then go did you get all that? Give them one thing, ask them if they’ve got it, make them repeat it back to you, “Yep, I’m going to do that.” “Yep, you’re going to do this.” I know it sounds patronizing and I know it sounds pedestrian, but it’s not, right? It’s a simple discipline that you can use to make sure your communication is understood accurately. So communicate clearly, take the time and the trouble to communicate clearly in simple steps. And don’t be afraid of repetition and check their understanding by making them repeat it back to you.


  1. Help them remember it by writing it down. That does two things:
    1. It gives them something to look at so they don’t have to try and remember the 8 – 10 things that you just told them.
    2. It gives you all something to look back at to check when there’s conflict that needs resolving or when you need to reconcile your two slightly different readings of the situation because it’s written down, what you’ve agreed is written down.

So if you’re talking to a staff member, give them their instructions slowly, get them to repeat them back to you, and write them down somewhere.

If it’s a staff member on a job site, you can put it in your job management system, Tradify or Buildertrend. You can write it in an email or you can text it to them. And you can write it on a job card.

Make sure they understand

If it’s a customer, you can write it in your quote, on your proposal, in the terms and conditions. Don’t be tempted to hide s**t in the terms and conditions, in the small print because that’s not communicating, that’s just trying to get away with something. So if you’re going to put things in the terms and conditions, talk them through and make sure they understand.

So three simple steps:

  1. Communicate clearly
  2. Test their understanding
  3. Document this shared understanding and share the documentation.

If you want a copy of what you’ve just seen on screen there, drop us your email in the comments and we’ll email it to you.

And if you think you’re too busy for this or you haven’t got time for this s**t, then you need a smack and you definitely need a business coach.

See you later.

There are four ways you can engage with me:

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4. Book yourself a 10-minute chat with me. We’ll talk about whether coaching is right for you now and if it is, we’ll go further into the process before you have to make your mind up.

See you later.

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