Communication involves the exchange and movement of information to instruct, inform and/or direct. Communication challenges stand out among all the challenges CEOs come to me for leadership coaching. Whether the communication involves the top Executive Team, from the top-down or the bottom-up. It can be across departments or inside the organization to the outside or outside to inside, communication issues cost companies lots of dollars in productivity, sales and profits.
Communication issues cost companies lots of dollars in productivity, sales and profits
There is not a client I have worked with in 15 years which has not had some communication issues. They have all had them in some form or another. Some have been critical and have affected the bottom line, others were just behavioral conflicts and major annoyances. Regardless of the importance or intensity, I still would wager it is costing your organization some money.
The keys to better communication come with increased trust, better conflict resolution, reducing misunderstanding and increasing clarity and candor. Here are some of the most common issues I see regarding communication in organizations:
1. Consistent messaging from the top down through the organization
There is always a lack of consistency between messages that start from the top and make their way down through an organization. Leaders can’t seem to help themselves by modifying the message a few shades. Sometimes this is helpful, but more often it’s harmful that they distort the message a little bit. This changes corporate culture, muddies expectations and clouds reality. Although it’s a problem inside the organization, it also does damage with customers, potential customers and vendors too.
Sales people get mixed messages from their superior who changes the message from the vice-president ever so slightly or so much it can’t be even identified. The same thing happens on the operational leg of the business. Or in HR, Finance and so on. Mixed and cloudy messages happen like this on a consistent basis in your organization whether you are aware of the reality of it or not and again, it costs you productivity and money. You have to find the root causes of why this happens and make the appropriate adjustments to correct it as soon as possible. Ignoring it makes is more damaging and harmful.
2. Seeing disagreement as a productive asset
Most people just don’t like conflict or any sort. They process conflict as bad and to be avoided to keep the peace. They don’t see healthy conflict as an idea vetting process or productive. You should never shoot the employee who gives you bad news when it is a reality that needs to be dealt with. Many times, if an employee gives you bad feedback, you categorize them as not on the team, a pot-stirrer or a complainer. I am sure that some employees fit these descriptions, but you can habitually fall into believing everyone who does not go along with the ship’s policies or people who call out deficiencies as not good or valuable.
These people sometimes are taking risks by being bold with you and you need to be disciplined enough to really listen to what they say. The closer you are to reality inside or outside your organization, the better decisions you can make regarding situations, service and performance. Shooting the messenger is a great way to make sure you never hear about anything that is questionable again.
3. Building your employees self-esteem
The better you can make your people feel about themselves, increase their confidence and increase their ability to tell you honest feedback, the better and more reliable your communications will be. If you are too flippant, sarcastic or someone who discounts them, then you can’t expect the information you receive to be clear and honest, they will always be coloring the information, so they will not be the butt of your comments.
Listening to them without interrupting, respecting their feelings and treating them as a valuable information resource will validate them in ways you can’t even imagine. There are probably a lot more ways to do this, but I think you get my point. Being a person who validates their viewpoints and opinions is terrific for the energy level of your employees and will enhance their ultimate performance around the areas of communication.
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