Effective Workplace Communication
By effective workplace communication we understand the leadership’s ability to use corporate communication as an organizational alignment tool.
On the contrary, if you are interested in:
- Communication for Teams (
- Communication Techniques (
- Communication Barriers (
- Communication Definition (
- Communication Activities (
You can see effective workplace communication when the entire company is aligned around what we call the Heart of the organization: Mission, values, vision, strategy, goals, and roles / responsibilities – the organization’s Heart is useless if it is not used to align the entire organization, to guide all the employees, and to improve organizational performance.
Effective workplace communication is the leadership’s ability to communicate to the entire organization its Heart in an ongoing basis.
Organizational communication is relatively easy to accomplish, yet, it is one of the leadership tools most underexploited.
For example, John Kotter in “Leading Change” (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA: 1996) affirms that in the average organization, the Vision captures only 0.6 percent of the communication market share – in other words, out of all the communication that the typical employee receives in a given time period, only 0.6 percent is made up by the Vision.
In an arbitrary exercise, if we extended this number to the rest of the organizational Heart – the information communicated to the employees about the mission, the values, the strategy, etc. – this communicated information wouldn’t amount to much in the total communication market share.
No wonder so many companies struggle so much to align their entire organizations.
You know you accomplish effective workplace communication when your employees at all levels across all Departments clearly understand what the organization is about (mission), how they are expected to behave (values), where they are heading (vision), how they will get there (strategy), what they are supposed to accomplish (goals), and how their individual contributions matter (roles & responsibilities).
How do you accomplish this? Effective workplace communication is about five simple habits (see below for details about each one):RepetitionSimplicitySeveral channelsWalk your talkTwo-way communication
Photo courtesy of Chas Redmond
Repeat, repeat, repeat – a person begins to believe what she hears and begins to internalize it after she listens to the same message over and over several times. You must literally get sick of yourself listening to you again and again saying the same thing – but the point is clear: Repetition.
However, every single time your repeat your message, you must be honest and genuine about the meaning, substance, and strategic relevance of your communication. Repetition is useless without genuine sincerity.
Be creative if you will: Use analogies, metaphors, examples, etc. – but don’t stop. Leadership communication is about repetition, whether you like it or not. Repetition might sound boring, but it is one of the most effective workplace communication tools.
Do you really mean organizational alignment and high performance? Repetition is indispensable.
If you want all your people to clearly understand you, if you care for all your employees to truly comprehend all your messages, you must always stay away from using any business lingo, industry specific terminology, technical specialized gobbledygook, etc.
Speak with people, don’t talk at them.
Use as many different communication methods as possible – be creative here: small meetings, town halls, company magazines, internal newspapers, memos, formal and informal interaction, emails, bulletin boards, etc.
However – keep note, this is important – the most effective form of communication is from the direct supervisor in an ongoing basis.
If you are the CEO, ask your direct reports to cascade this tip down – and then check at different points throughout your organization if your executives at all levels are actually using it – if not, see where the ball stopped rolling down so that you may unclog the flow.
Finally, remember that showing is much more powerful than telling: a picture is worth a thousand words.
Walk your Talk:
Lead by example.
Remember, the most important ingredient in shaping the culture of an organization is the behavior of its leaders.
As the leader of your organization – no matter at what level – you must breathe, eat, and always behave according to your organization’s Heart.
If you don’t, you will create cynicism, de-motivation, and resistance to change.
You are the leader – and no matter how much you hide (as a leader, you must never hide) – everybody is always looking at you.
Effective workplace communication is a two-way process – you must always listen for feedback.
Engaging is more powerful than telling, when people engage in a dialogue, they ask questions, make suggestions, express opinions, etc.
When human beings engage in a dialogue, they are more likely to comprehend it and to commit to it – and this is exactly what you want: Engagement, comprehension, and commitment.
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These five guidelines will help you immensely aligning your entire organization – a simple tool that it all requires is discipline.
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