Leadership Tips: Effective Communication
Simply put, we need to work with other people in nearly any endeavor, and yet for all of the thought and consideration given to developing the many aspects and qualities involved in running a business, we’ve yet to perfect perhaps the most basic one: communication.
What we hope to achieve, in business and in life, we largely achieve together, working with others towards a common goal, or aided in our drive for a singular one. Simply put, we need to work with other people in nearly any endeavor, and yet for all of the thought and consideration given to developing the many aspects and qualities involved in running a business, we’ve yet to perfect perhaps the most basic one: communication.
Part of that can be chalked up to the nature of our humanity; we’re flawed and fallible, often failing to make ourselves understood or understand others. But much of the blame has to fall to us. We’re prone to expect others to read our minds, or intuit what we intend or want through suggestions and inferences that are only clear to us. There are plenty of studies on lost productivity due to a lack of efficiency, but it’s worth wondering how much harder our jobs are made because of failures to communicate clearly some percent of the time.
You may not be perfect in that regard yourself, but as a leader, you have to try and establish the strongest lines of communication that you can. It’s the basis of teamwork, after all; otherwise any grouping would quickly devolve into a competing set of goals and actions unknown to everyone else, with tasks either duplicated or left undone. Bringing a team into some sort of harmony will make your job and the work at hand that much more productive and simpler.
The first order of business in building up team communication is letting people know how and when they should be talking to each other. You’d sooner hope that they were talking to each other more frequently rather than less, but some jobs and teams can be hindered by too much talking; some tasks require quiet and concentration, or more compartmentalization to avoid distraction. Whatever information is required to be communicated, it’s your job to ensure that people are passing that along at the right time to enable the team to continue functioning effectively.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of productivity tools aimed at facilitating better communication available to companies, and absent those, there is the old stand-by of email to spread the word.
Another issue to tackle when confronting communication problems is that of clarity. For every person who says too little, there are exponentially more who obscure their meaning by saying too much, or fail to effectively make their point or deliver the message they intend. There are likely a few culprits of this: the medium can create a problem, or even the setting.
Some people communicate more effectively in writing, and stumble over their words when speaking, while others would prefer to talk over the phone rather than send an email; either example, if forced into their less-preferred means of communication, might not convey their full message simply because their skill fails them. And group settings versus individual meetings create different dynamics as to what people are willing to say, particularly as it comes to less pleasant matters to discuss. If your preference is for written communication, there are productivity tools available such as Rephraser.ai. Rephraser.ai edits and professionalizes your business writing to ensure that your communication is fluent and clear.
Moreover, cultivating honesty in your team’s communication is as important as any other aspect. All the messages and texts and emails in the world aren’t worth a thing if you’re not getting the entire truth and all of the relevant information. Certainly, we’re all guilty when it comes to a lack of total honesty; no one wants to be the one to deliver bad news, particularly if that bad news reflects poorly on us. In that, you’re butting up against self-preservation in your push for more and better information.
How to bridge that gap is a difficult question; offering something like the old chestnut from our parents, “I won’t be mad if you tell me,” might be a way to encourage more honestly. Telling your team to bring you whatever they have, no matter how unpleasant it might be, so that you might be able to help in sorting out potential problems is one way to hopefully encourage a more honest working environment.
No one is going to get it exactly right. Despite your best efforts, people will still fail to mention the latest hiccup in their project or elide the potential problems to present a rosy picture. And that you can’t account for; it’s impossible to insulate your team against something that is innate, that harbors both the pride and fear that prevent us from being entirely truthful about our shortcomings. But you can work to get the best result possible out of your team, and those efforts will be rewarded with a better, stronger collective.
Adapted from an article written by Mary Juetten, first published on forbes.com, August 27, 2019