How’s The Communication Flow In Your Business?

You might expect that with today’s information technology, communication in your company ought to be pretty close to perfect.  After all, communication of all kinds, technological and human, are what makes your company happily function each day. Yet communication problems can happen frequently in the business environment, both internally (laterally, up and down) and externally (clients, deals with other businesses).

When you hear statements like “That’s not what I was expecting” or “I didn’t know that” or “Who’s on first?”  or when you make an important decision and later find out some important information was missing, you know, as Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke pointed out, “What we have here is a communication breakdown.”

These occurrences are not because we are so poor at communicating.  Instead they happen for a variety of correctable reasons that you, as the business leader, can address.

  1. Departmental compartmentalization:  This is also called the “silo” effect, and is manifested by company departments or teams having their own specific language and codes for certain work, combativeness, territorialism, and unhealthy competition.  The cause is fear of losing their uniqueness, their value to the company, or their funding and resources.
  2. Human Resource Management:   All managers in your company are managing human resources, and how they do it can contribute to communication breakdowns due to turnover without adequate cross training to fill temporary responsibility gaps.  Reporting redundancy where two employees are providing similar information to differing levels of management, either vertically or horizontally are also possible.
  3. Information Attachment Syndrome:   Withholding information can sometimes provide a sense of uniqueness, special value or power for some individuals, primarily those who feel threatened by others.  You can have the information if you ask, but folks with this syndrome usually unconsciously tend to hold back one little bit that changes the whole situation from your viewpoint.
  4. Perceptual Differences:  Whether they are culturally, socially or psychologically oriented, perception of other’s communication is at the crux of many communication breakdowns.  If what you hear is different than what I say, much of it has to do with the perception and context we are living in at the moment.  If a person from one culture values a handshake as absolute and another means it to be a general agreement, there will be problems when it comes time to implement the details.
  5. Information Overload:  Whether it’s the compulsive email checking every couple of minutes, the texts, voicemails, the visits from co-workers who need something, the urgent situation, or the request made passing in the hallway, overload is a key reason people become distracted.  The result is that information gets lost in the process.
  6. Organization Structure:  Like the old childhood “Secret” game, the more times a message is relayed, the less likely it will resemble the original version.   Additionally, if your organization has multiple levels, there are a number of places where information can get stuck or stopped along the way.
  7. Just Being Human:  People who are stressed, have temporary but serious personal problems, are under what feels like unreasonable deadlines, or who are in conflict with co-workers are not going to hear or listen to communication as effectively as they might if at the top of their game.  They also may put less importance on information that requires more immediate attention or has big ramifications.  Stress and its accompanying emotions result in poor communication with clients and customers as well.

So what to do?  How can you, as the organization leader, ensure maximal communication between, among, to, from and with your people and your business partners?  Here are some tips that I use with my clients when looking at communication and human resource management:

  • Communicate your intentions and philosophy about open and transparent communications with your team and request these members do the same with their teams.  Make this type of information flow a core value in your business.
  • Build trust with your colleagues and team.  Your ability to build this trust through your leadership can transform the culture of your entire organization.
  • Encourage collaboration by actively seeking and supporting departments working together.  Use outside consultants to bring together particularly combative departments so they can reach understanding and collaborative goals.
  • Rotate professionals and managers in differing departments or on joint projects so they can learn just what it’s like from another perspective.   Cross train at lower levels so that turnover doesn’t interrupt the communication flow.

 

  • Establish communication systems that are bold and simple, open, and hold your people accountable for implementing these systems.  Part of these systems include lowering the distraction levels and accounting for multiple management levels.
  • Train your people in active listening skills that includes clarification of message, understanding of goals, and questioning others so that there is perceptual and actual agreement on messages.  Ensure that your managers and HR people can identify and support an employee whose performance is temporarily impaired due to emotional stress.
  • Reward honest, open and constructive communication, departmental collaboration, and positive interaction in your organization.

You can set the tone in your business for the flow of communication that will keep you and your organization from communication breakdown.

If you need to implement this in your business we highly recommend that you have a complimentary strategy session with Lourdes, contact customerservice@lourdesgant.com

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