Any leader wanting to improve relationships with team members, staff or consumers should begin by focusing on being a good communicator.
What is the significance of good communication?
Whenever I ask clients what they believe is the most essential element of a successful business relationship, they state that communication as most important. And, that communication is a key reason that a company lacks a culture of working together. Team members distrust each other and rather than working together compete for the attention or recognition of others. It is not the culture that leaders want or expect and yet the leader can be the reason for these issues.
Communication has a direct influence on your organization’s overall experience. It also impacts company and member performance. Want a more successful, profitable company and a place that people want to return day after day? Then start with working on communication.
In my work to understand the frustration often associated with staff engagement, I have found that poor communication is a top contributor to staff not performing as expected or needed.
Lack of good communication is a major issue that will create many issues surrounding your organization’s ability to successfully achieve your goals with satisfied and engaged team members.
In my experience, staff member often express frustration about lack of information, being caught by surprise, and not being listened to.
Causing a lack of trust is no one’s intent when communicating to their team members and staff but it could be the result,
Failing to communicate successfully undermines relationships and diminishes credibility. It is not reasonable to expect staff to work cooperatively with someone they don’t feel positive about or whose reliability they question.
Make no mistake; these feelings affect trust. It’s impossible to have a positive relationship with someone without trust.
Quantity vs. Quality
You may feel your efforts to communicate are more than adequate. After all that 20-page report that was sent at the beginning of the year to outline goals, objectives and expectations is a good thing. Or the ongoing weekly email with updates tells everything. Understand that while frequency is important, quantity doesn’t automatically translate into quality.
If your staff is not responding with desired results, consider the possibility that your communication techniques need improving.
Think of all the interactions you have involving some form of communication. Are they contributing to positive performance outcomes or inadvertently adding to the frustration of expectations not being met?
Two Tips from a Top Communicator
What More Can I Say? by communication expert Dianna Booher helped me appreciate the many fundamentals that go into being a successful communicator. Dianna offers lots of information in her book but particularly these 2 tips.
- Listen for what’s not said in a conversation or document.
“Why did the person not mention a particular topic? Why did the person not ask the next logical question? Why did the person skirt an issue when it would have been typical and reasonable to discuss the topic? Silence speaks volumes. Carefully and thoughtfully try to discern what is not being said including feelings and motivating factors to help better understand a situation. What is not being said is often more powerful than what is being said.
- Listen carefully and discriminately. Probe with questions to help draw conclusions about what you hear so you can make sound decisions.
It is important to remember that people are going to judge the messages they are receiving even if that is not your intent.
Sometimes this happens when someone finds out later about additional time commitments and expectations, not outlined initially and not acknowledged.
Research shows that many leaders are missing an opportunity to establish good relationships by not properly orienting their members to their roles and responsibilities and to the organizations they serve right from the beginning of the hiring process. The study reports a lack of knowledge about their roles and responsibilities.
Who is responsible for providing that knowledge and when does it occur? The organization staff who is responsible for information and timing.
In addition, it is the organization staff who is responsible for the delivery of information during the orientation process.
If trust is damaged at the very beginning of an encounter or relationship, it will continue building trust after developing mistrust is a long process and hard battle. It is not necessary to rebuild trust if trust isn’t damaged.
Here are seven actions to begin to turn communication efforts from possibility poor to a more effective method and developing more positive and improving relationships.
- Be upfront right away by starting with your recruitment process and expectations. Be upfront on the role and responsibilities and what to expect. Talk about the company culture and be sure to be open and honest. If you believe that you or your staff must provide a more, positive image or basically weasel word to a new potential employee. Then start changing the work environment to be more positive, welcoming and what anyone wants to work within and for.
- Incorporate your team in making key decisions and in the planning process. Making changes to policy or goals will be a lot easier if team members have been involved in the decision-making process.
- Consider that team members process information in different ways. When staying aware of the best way to communicate messages to groups of people or individuals you could find that spreadsheets and charts are more readily understood by some of your audience. Whereas spreadsheets are not for others. Cookie cutter communication is easier, and attempting to meet individual communication preferences is certainly demanding, but the results are worth the effort.
- People generally do not like surprises especially unpleasant ones that are sprung on them with no advance warning. This is especially true with quick turnarounds, changes in procedure and processes that are not given time for people to digest or understand. Advance distribution and communication show consideration for busy schedules.
- With COVID, we have all become used to online meetings, text messages, email, printed materials but by far the best way to communicate with people is still the one to one in person meeting. Especially if the situation needs compromise or buy in or significant changes that can upend sometimes like. Even though an in-person meeting takes more time often requiring a commute and meeting place, it is the best form of communication when larger changes are required.
- It is also important to keep aware of communication barriers. Your body language, tone of voice, and choice of words all matter. So do theirs. Take time to listen to what is said but also what is not said by body language, movement, voice. All important tools to really learn and understand what is happening, how your information is being received and how well things are going. Although this can also be misleading so keep open to closely hearing and seeing.
- Active listening is the best way to hear what is being said. Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand. And recap what you understand is being said. Active listening will also help your audience feel that their opinions are wanted and respected.
Communicating effectively is hard work and does require commitment to be fully present in the conversation. Actively participate. And make sure you understand what is decided and what is being conveyed by both verbal and nonverbal communication.
Make sure you are evaluating how you communicate and your effectiveness and if what you wanted to convey was conveyed effectively.
Learning and striving to continue to become a better communicator will help develop you as a more effective leader. Leading to more effectiveness, better relationships and better overall performance.