Probably the number one challenge that all leaders face is the issue of establishing effective communication; both with their team and with their peers. In the modern era of internet and mobile communications we have given into the idea that some how we have more communication than ever. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The sad reality is when you dig into the issues that dog most businesses today the one item that comes up consistently is ineffective communication. "We don't know where we stand" or "We are treated like mushrooms fed ..... and kept in the dark most of the time!" (I will let you fill in the rest of that sentence!) These are statements that reveal the ongoing challenges of communication.
So as new leader (or an experienced leader for that matter) you may be saying to yourself; what else should I do? I post notices, send out emails, do up newsletters for my team, surely that is enough? The short answer to those questions is no it is not. In his excellent work on change management John Kotter points out that leaders typically under-communicate to the power of ten. Patrick Lencioni in his latest work, "The Advantage" states that healthy organizations must focus on creating clarity, over-communicate clarity and reinforce clarity. In short we are not communicating enough.
Here are four principles to keep in mind when evaluating your communication:
1.) People want clear direction - its like the old work joke "Who told you to pile that dirt there?" "But boss, you told me to dig this hole?" This relates to the idea that people want to do good work and particularly new staff. See someone not working? Chances are they are unclear about what to do and they certainly don't want to do the wrong thing. The net result is they can become frozen and unable to move forward until provided with clarity.
2.) People want to know how they are doing. When I ask people how they know they have had a good day at work one of the more common answers is; nobody yelled at me. If you want to increase the level of effective communication you will need to train yourself to look for what folks are doing well and give them that feedback. Look for and communicate on the behaviors you want.
3.) People want to have their ideas listened to. This may seem an obvious communication "tip" but effective communication is a dialogue not a monologue. It is like the story of the battleship commander who upon seeing a light off the port bow radios ahead requesting the other ship make a turn to the right to avoid a collision. When they reply and ask the battleship to move the commander bellows back "We are a battleship and you will move!" The response was classic - "We are a lighthouse stay the course if you wish!" Avoid the pitfall of one way communication, tap into your team and make sure you create a safe place for dialogue.
4.) People closest to the action are best able to assess the risks and opportunities. Bottom line, are are you checking in with and including your front line folks in the communication stream? If not why not?
Really what each of these tips do is provide you with a framework to interact and spend time talking with your team. Those discussions will lead to valuable insights and provide you with a much clearer picture of how your communication is working.
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