Effective communication is one of the key functions of management, yet we frequently find ourselves frustrated with others not understanding what we have shared. After we say our piece, we assume that others see things the same way we do but the only thing we can be sure of, even after a lengthy conversation, is that what’s in your mind is not exactly the same in their mind. We just hope the gaps are few and insignificant.
The problem is even worse if the communication comes in the form of a management “presentation” with little/no opportunity for dialogue. I once spent an hour presenting “how we make money” to a group of front-line employees: Revenue – (Material + Labor + Manufacturing Overhead + Other Overhead) = Profit. The presentation was complete with flipchart graphics. It was clear from some of the questions at the end of the presentation that some of the employees still looked at Revenue as the amount of money theoretically distributable to all the members of the company. While frustrating, this incident just confirmed how hard it is to be truly effective in your communication. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the primary responsibility for the effectiveness of communication lies with whoever is sending the message.
Studies have shown that managers typically under communicate but think they did a good job. It’s not just executive management. This “failure to communicate” affects all members of an organization. If you are a middle manager, you have the challenge of communicating both up and down the chain of command. If you are a front-line team member, it’s important you effectively communicate any issues or challenges you face in the performance of your job so they may be resolved. Anything less than excellent communication, at all levels, negatively impacts relationships and hurts the bottom line.
Here’s a formula for communication success:
- Understand your objective. Why are you communicating?
- Understand your audience. What do they need to know?
- Plan what you want to say.
- Choose the best communication channel:
- One-on-one conversation
- Team presentation/discussion
- Written document:
- Match your style to reader’s preferences
- Avoid jargon or slang
- Check your grammar and punctuation
- Check for tone and attitude
- Email/text for simple directions (NEVER email/text complex or negative content.)
- Cultural context of organization
- Potential emotional content
- Need for detail
- The need to ask and answer questions
- Decide exactly what to convey.
- As much as possible, use pictures, charts, diagrams.
- Verbal: prepare written notes to guide the conversation.
- Written: draft document/presentation for sharing. Review as necessary to ensure effectiveness. Send.
- If sensitive, solicit other inputs and get feedback prior to sending/engaging.
- Engage (Verbal):
- Be concise.
- Listen actively.
- Stay open.
- Be attentive and avoid distractions.
- Respect others’ feelings
- Don’t interrupt!
- Pay attention to body language.
- Ask questions to ensure understanding.
- Record all action items: What-Who-When.
- Follow Up:
- How effective was the communication?
- Did I/we achieve the stated objectives?
- What could we do to improve communication?
Effective communication is an art that all of us would do well to master, for our own good and that of our organization. Are you getting the results you want from your communication or are you constantly thinking, “Why don’t they get it?”
Comer and Associates, LLC develops great leaders and teams and facilitates projects that lead to growth and profit. Our April 11 – 13 ADVANCE management and leadership workshop will cover all the key functions of management, including communication.
Contact us today for more information at 303-786-7986 or info@ComerAssociates.com.