Communication – Impossible to get right?

It’s unlikely to surprise many people in business that communication matters.  Having spent the past twenty years in leadership and HR roles I have seen the impact both great and poor communication has on the strength of relationships and effectiveness of people and teams at work. Often we find leaders who are surprised to learn that their teams are looking for more and improved communication.  Just as common are individuals or groups who feel they have been misinformed or are ‘out of the loop’ despite the business believing it has communicated effectively.  As George Bernard Shaw once said “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.

In today’s blog I want to share with you some of the most important characteristics of effective communication. To state the bleeding obvious communication is a ‘two way street’ that demands both telling and listening.  Those organisations that get it right understand that the primary reasons for focusing on effective communication are to:

  • Keep people appropriately informed particularly about things that impact them
  • Leverage the full potential of people by tapping into their ideas and insights
  • Make well informed decisions
  • Ensure people feel appropriately consulted
  • Foster healthy working relationships
  • Achieve high standards of staff retention and engagement
  • Positively influence the culture of the team

To ensure people feel appropriately informed it is critical that leaders:

  • Provide up to date information about objectives, strategies, priorities and progress
  • Communicate potential and actual impacts of decisions
  • Proactively influence awareness and understanding
  • Provide opportunity for questions to be raised and responded to

Just as important is the style a leader or organisation adopts when communicating.  It is critical to:

  • Focus on earning and retaining trust
  • Be open and honest while appropriately managing risk and sensitivities
  • Demonstrate authenticity and avoid ‘spin’
  • Act with empathy and compassion when needed

Communication must also be:

  • Frequent and timely
  • Planned, as well as informal
  • Purposeful and relevant

On a final note, while email has its place, face to face communication is often the most effective way of ensuring clarity and fostering effective working relationships.

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