Get more from your communication skills in 2022Jan 07, 2022
With so much change occurring across the entire economy and society, communications have become the critical link between the organisation and every one of its stakeholders; between achieving your objectives, and not; between increasing your risk, and managing your risk; between being perceived as a professional and being perceived as an amateur.
We are inundated by news 24/7 and all around us – communicating thousands of bits of information every day. Most of us have learned to tell the difference between worthwhile and value-adding news, and biased and inaccurate news; between self-serving communications and well-intended communications; between honesty and deception.
The communications your organisation send generates are exactly the same – the recipient of your communications has learned to decipher the message from their own subjective viewpoint and accept it or reject it based on its merits for them.
The Criticality of Communications
Communications in organisations is a very big topic for two reasons: everybody does it in one form or another; and if you don’t do it effectively, then there are serious and painful ramifications.
When we talk about communications in organisations, we mean as a broad definition messages or information sent from one party to another when the sender believes that the recipient will have an interest in that which is sent.
Typically, functional managers need to communicate to their people, departments, and functions for which they are responsible. They also need to communicate to their peer-managers in other functions in the organisation, and to other people anywhere who are responsible for specific functions: for example, Finance, HR, IT, Procurements, and so on.
Depending on their role, they and their people probably also need to communicate to customers, or suppliers, and other external stakeholders.
Communications, like oxygen for humans, is the life blood of an organisation’s existence. Leaders who are poor communicators are, inevitably, poor leaders.
For every leader, communications represent a big part of their role. Being able to communicate effectively to whomever you need to communicate to has significant benefits for the organisation.
Benefits of effective communication
There is a range of benefits that effective communications can deliver. These include building of morale; enhancing job satisfaction and engagement; building and reinforcing organisational mission and vision; giving people clarity, understanding, and a reference point; improving efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness; making organisations more flexible and responsive; building trust; building confidence; building relationships; and helping reduce and manage risks.
The two-way communications highway
Many leaders and managers believe that “if they say it, it will happen", because they’re the leader, and of course, those who hear the communication will do what they’re told.
The problem is that people hear, not only with their ears, but with their conscious and subconscious brain.
There are scores of examples of organisations saying exactly what the recipient didn’t want to hear in a manner that they didn’t want to hear it.
As one example, because the senior team is composed of intelligent people, they know that one of the justifications for a merger, is the savings in some departments and functional areas and therefore greater combined revenues and profits.
The communicator assumed that all staff would be happy and even elated with the news of a merger. However, staff weren’t elated – some of their responses included:
- feared that they would lose their jobs with the cost savings
- thought their departments and the scale of their responsibility might be downsized
- thought that their career advancement would be harder with more competing for the positions
- feared that they would be asked to retrain
- feared that they might be made redundant because they were due to retire in 2 years
- feared they would have to work harder and be at the office longer to build the right image for advancement, and concerned about the impact on their family
- feared that the nice positive words were never backed up with written commitments and therefore a risk for them
- …and so on.
The point here is that although the leader had a totally legitimate message that offered growth for the organisation, people in that organisation didn’t necessarily see it the same way. They viewed the communication from a subjective and personal perspective – and that subjectivity is entirely normal.
Therefore, if you’re going to communicate to a diverse group, understand that a diverse range of subjectivities will affect the degree that the communication will resonate in the way you intended.
Diversity comes in many forms and most have their veil of subjectivity through which many communications must pass. Some of the diversity dimensions might include gender, religion, sexual preference, culture, caste, citizenship, literacy, language, education level, socio-economic level, and other dimensions. In general, the greater the number of diversity dimensions, then the greater the complexity of the communications.
Using the merger example above, if you’re planning the communication and you know that employees are concerned about a related matter, then say something in that communication that will avoid the negative interpretations if it’s possible and if it’s true. Something like, “all employees will be retained in their current positions,” would go a long way to avoiding employee fear and stress.
The other thing about two-way communications is that those with whom you are communicating might have a view about what you’ve just said, but they will almost certainly have questions.
Leaders need to listen to the issues and opinions of those with whom they are communicating.
The theory is that a leader should know, understand, and have accommodated those issues and opinions into the communication thus negating the need to consider other issues or opinions. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The reality is that this rarely happens completely and effectively; that is, that all issues and opinions were accommodated. Therefore, communicate and then be prepared to dynamically listen to the opinion of others and the issues that the communication didn’t address or address adequately.
Doing this well will build loyalty, trust, and improve productivity, so it’s worth doing consistently.
Communication channels and forms
Communication has multiple forms and a number of ways to deliver “the message”.
The preferred channel will be determined by the message’s timing and urgency, the target audience, and the nature and intent of the message.
The following channels are all used at different times for different message objectives: face-to-face meetings, e-mail, notice boards, hard copy letter, staff handbook or manual, newsletter, public meetings, telephone, surveys, stories, social media, messaging apps, virtual meetings, and the “grapevine”.
Your call to action
To get a more complete discussion including Things to Avoid in Communications, contact us and request the entire discussion at [email protected]
If you wish to explore the possibility of working with us, then it’s easy.
We meet (face-to-face or digital) to discuss your needs – this is NOT a sales ambush, nor a brainstorming or ideas session. The conversation is between mature professionals to see if we have something that fits your needs.
If we believe we can assist you and based on your needs, we prepare a detailed proposal that we believe, based on the understanding we have gained from you, will satisfy those needs.
If you would like to have the initial discussion to see if A&M can assist you, or if you have any questions about our diagnostic and methodology, please contact Dr Jack Jacoby, the Head of Client Satisfaction at [email protected].