While we live in the most advanced communication century, leaders today face quite a big challenge. According to an INSEAD survey between 6000 senior leaders across 35 countries, while communication tools have their golden era and have grown by more than 4000 % for the last decade, communication in the teams has decreased as satisfaction by more than 30%. It looks like a paradox, but we reduce communication quality while we implement innovative technologies for communication. Facing this reality, many leaders need to search out solutions to improve communication in or with their teams to ensure that everyone is informed, accountable, and engaged toward the broader company goals.
As many leaders wait for the miracle to improve communication, realists invest in actions to see results. Here I am offering you six simple rules that can help anyone (not only leaders) build and sustain impactful communication with their teams.
Create the right environment
One simple rule, often misunderstood, is the one for the environment. For communication to grow and develop, the leader needs to create an open and mutual environment, where sharing information is supported, no matter the hierarchy’s level. Many leaders declare support for available two side communication, and when the moment for that communication arises, they stop it because they do not hear what they want. The open for communication environment means to give credit to all employees, ensuring they will have the opportunity to speak up without feeling threatened by the authority of the leader
Do not mistake information with communication
Have you seen a situation when a leader shares some information and classifies this as communication? If not, then you are a lucky one.
Years ago, I had a team leader, a lady who always shared information with us, expecting us to understand it just because she shared it. One day this same lady share information with us about a significant change that we had to support as HR Business partners in one of the Functions we supported at our company. And that was all. Two weeks later, our team leader called out a meeting to “give us feedback” on how disappointed she was from our behavior, and of course, our negligence about the change support we had to deliver. When we asked her what we should do about this change, she answered that this is not important anymore, because in her eyes we have failed as a team and now she had to come and save the day for us. Two weeks later, my colleague and I had an open feedback session with the country HR director and our team leader. In this session, they started yelling at us how we do not understand our roles, etc. When they finished, my colleague asked for permission to tell our point in this story. She carefully explained that we got information on a change coming and that our team will support this change, but nothing else. Then our team leader asked what type of communication we need to understand the importance of the project, and I stand up to explain to her that her so-called communication is nothing more than an information-sharing session and that communicating means to involve everyone in an information-sharing session.
Do you recognize someone from your environment in this situation? If YES, you are not alone. Many leaders mistake information sharing with communication. And they will need to understand that both differ from each other, and if we want to establish an environment where we communicate, we need to involve all parties in one place and at the same level. Everything else does not count as communication.
Be generous in your affirmation
When communicating with others, we often need to confirm or deny some of the points we have stressed during the communication process. For a leader to succeed with communication, there must be enough information shared with the group of people to ensure no doubts or steps back possible. He must provide enough quantity to positively affect the quality of the communication process’s final decisions. When communicating with others, the leader or the initiator of the communication must share detailed information and try not to hide what is not secure information about the case or the communicated situation.
Scale back industry lingo and slang as much as possible
Have you been invited to a meeting where you do not understand half of the topics discussed there? Most of the time, people attending have used specific language and terms that are usual for the sphere of their expertise, but for you, they do not mean anything. Do not worry; you are not alone. One of the most formidable challenges every leader should conquer is the level of understanding and involvement in a discussion. If the debate is between team members or the communication is conducted internally, you can use as much lingo and slang as you want. But if the leader needs to involve different people with a good understanding of the specific words and phrases used in an industry or area of expertise, then the language must be as general as possible. As more comprehensive the communication is understood, as many people are involved in it. That will allow a larger group of people to participate and ensure that everyone’s quality of the decision taken is understood and supported.
Take time to answer questions from your employees
“Once communicated well and understood from the team members, the information shared is enough for them to do their job.” You cannot imagine how wrong this quote of Jack Welch is. Every leader must bring out the different points in the communication and involve everyone else to participate and allow space for questions. During a communication process, we share information, but still, in the end, some people may need further confirmation of the understanding built during communication or details to further involve themselves with the solution they will have to work out. One of the leader’s tasks during a communication process is to allow space for questions. And these questions must not be limited to a tight schedule. Allowing freedom to ask questions means for the leader to prepare these questions every time they need to be answered and only at a specific moment in time. Taking that time to answer questions from employees not only engages them on a higher level but allows growth in their level of accountability toward the task or the challenge and improves the quality of results in time, allowing the leader to transfer responsibility for operational functions from him/herself to team members or other participants in the project or task fulfillment.
Be thoughtful in your written communication
When we talk face to face with someone, we often see facial expressions, body language, can feel the tone of their voice, etc. All these allow us to reconfigure our communication style so that we do not lose the person. But when writing to others, these signs are not in front of us. According to an HBR article, 39% of the leaders do not understand their words have insulted employees or partners causing some of the employees to leave the company they are working for (according to the survey, 19% of the employees go to companies with that reason). In these delicate situations, to win every time, the leader must build a working communication approach that engages others. In simple words, that means, when writing, the leader must focus on following three simple rules:
- Do not make the information and communication personal
- Always write about situations and not persons
- A point on improvement opportunities as suggestions instead of formulating them as a personal threat
Following these simple rules will ensure a slightly balanced communication that calls for engagement and accountability instead of creating negative feelings.
Simple things are somehow hard to remember in today’s complex environment. Leaders, thinking on how to deal with complex situations, create increasingly complex solutions and communication styles, expression, reporting, etc. But if they want to reformulate the current approach and gain more results faster, what every leader must think is how to make things and communication more straightforward and direct. This article’s points are the first step; the other steps depend on the leader’s growth level.