What Are You Communicating?

One of the more frequent issues facing organizations is around internal communication. Sometimes employees say they don’t know what’s going on despite great effort made at communicating, or the leader has a clear idea of where they want to go but nobody seems to be following.

Even worse is when the leadership thinks it’s doing a good job communicating (“Look, we have a newsletter!”), but the internal survey comes back with “lack of communication” written all over it. This is what I like to call failing the “Am I smoking crack?” check.

Good news: at least you’re checking. That puts you ahead of 90% of the companies out there.

What simple behaviors do leaders who communicate well engage in? Here’s a couple of things I’ve noticed.

  1. Listen  – Maybe your one-way communication to your organization isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s that you’re not listening to what they’re saying. People generally aren’t ready to listen until they feel they’ve been heard. Maybe they’re trying to tell you something important? What are you telling people when you listen to them.
  2. Have a Simple and Consistent Message– remember KISS? “Keep it Simple Stupid?” The “stupid” in this case is not the people you’re talking to. It’s you. If you think that a wordy, complicated, bland message  is going to engage people to action then you’re being stupid.If you’re going to ask people to listen to you at least do them the courtesy and have the courage to actually say something. Be bold, brave, and brief.What is your message?
  3. Link Purpose to Action– can you answer the “So What?” question? Does everybody in your organization know where they fit in? If they don’t know how what they do supports the company – what the company is trying to do and what their part is – then they tend to switch off.If you can’t draw a line between somebody’s role  in your company to the company’s larger vision, strategy, and goals, then why do they work for you again?
  4. See Every Interaction as an Opportunity – every interaction with all employees is an opportunity to communicate. Beginning at the hiring process, on-boarding, newsletters, celebrations, feedback, one-on-ones, coaching, how your company runs meetings, who you fire (or not), who you promote(or not), etc. All the simple things that outstanding managers do well.How does your company behave during a crisis? What does how often and how you communicate say about you and your company? Sometimes it’s a case of “your actions are so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying”.
  5. Forget E-Mail – notice how I didn’t mention e-mails (until now). If you think you’re communicating through e-mail you might want to have another think.  Talking a lot is also not communicating (see point 1. above).
How important do you think communication is in your current rôle? How much time do you think you spend communicating? How much time do you dedicate to “communicating” (and listening) in your daily schedule?