One of the largest factors that determine a business’s success is communication. Many leaders in organizations are aware that communication is important, but fail to understand how to correct the issue with miscommunication.
So what is a leader to do?
Knowing The Vital Signs
The figures for how much poor communication can affect a business do not typically show up as line-items in financial statements. Consequently, mis-communication can be easily missed or ignored if leaders are not aware of the vital signs.
I hear statements like this all of the time from leaders in the retail industry:
“We know mis-communication is the problem, but we don’t know what our people are looking for.”
But with statements like this, it shows that leaders are not always genuinely listening to their people.
I have observed meetings designed to provide solutions to poor communication. They are usually filled with discussions on easily observable solutions that do not work. The poorly designed solution generally provides undesirable affects like adding more email, memo’s, and meetings to everyone’s schedule.
Unfortunately though, the solutions many leaders are coming up with are short-term and are generally a waste of time.
So what is the solution to better communication? Well, over the last few years I have spent some time on some personal observations and research and found that the best way to enhance communication within an organization is in listening and connecting with people.
Leaders need to listen to their people and communicate information pertinent to the specific needs of the individuals and groups that they serve.
Not all information is important to everyone equally. And people understand when leaders are just pushing information down from above. They inherently know that this causes a disconnect or provides a feeling that the information provided is potentially useless or that it may be just another fad.
Communication is an Investment
Communication is not a simple fix with a quick solution; communication is an investment of time from leaders to connect with their organization. Every level of leadership needs to have the same commitment to their direct teams and there must be consistency.
Leadership teams need to be on the same page with communication to avoid inconsistency which can lead to dysfunctional communication between teams and an individual leader or leaders within a leadership team.
The best way I have always found to build strong communication with teams is listening to verbal and nonverbal cues when passing or receiving information.
Knowing your people can and will enhance communication.
Getting Honest Feedback
Ask employees to give you honest feedback as to how well you communicate. You may think that you are a great communicator because you pass information along.
But the truth may be that your communication technique is ineffective for the people you are leading.
At one point, I asked my team how they though my communication was. The response was surprising, but rewarding.
- My team at the time stated that I email too much. Consequently, they deleted my emails without reading them.
- The team also stated that I told them stuff that they did not care about. Consequently, they ignored the information because it was just corporate information that was going to change in a week.
The team felt a bit disconnected and uniformed as to what was important to their success. The members also stated that there was a lack of follow-up to care about some of the information they ignored.
Formulating a Response
I took this information and restructured how I communicated and made everything more personal and direct. I also made extra time to really understand individual communication needs to become more effective.
A few months later after making my changes to how I communicate, again I asked my team for feedback and the results were phenomenal:
- The team stated they felt more connected and informed and never felt like they were missing information that was important to them.
- They always read my emails because they were direct and informative to them with a follow up action from me.
- The team stated that they never thought anyone would ever listen to them and make changes based on what they said.
These results are a reality that many leaders ignore or push to the side, listening and understanding is the key to increase communication effectiveness for leaders.
This may be a rude awakening for some leaders, but effective communication is not easy and there is no quick fix solution.
Communication is a commitment to understanding and informing to create a more effective organization.
Is there a way that a group of leaders can have strong consistent communication with any type of leadership divide? What are some best practices when communicating with a new or unfamiliar group that you are leading? Is it difficult for you as a leader to accept constructive feedback from an employee, why or why not?
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