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The Art of Effective Communication

Language and communication techniques are really important and the foundation of effective communications is wanting to be understood by the other party and having a real desire to understand what the other party is trying to communicate to us. What that means is effective communications is all about the motivation behind the presentation of information.

The problem with communication

The problem is that an organization’s leaders frequently lack the motivation to learn effective communication methods, either because they don’t understand their importance or because they overestimate their own communication skills.

As a result people within the organization, who are strongly motivated to communicate, are often given the message that what they have to say really isn’t valued so, sometimes, they lose their motivation to communicate and ultimately to work altogether.

Effective communication, essential for leaders

At the heart of communication problems within many organizations is a simple misunderstanding of the nature of effective communications. This is what one finds when asking what one thing could be improved in their organization to make everything better. The most frequent response is better communication, and this is true regardless of the type of organization or industry.

This finding tends to frustrate senior managers and leaders alike as they quickly try to find out what kind of information do people want that they’re not already getting. While understandable this response reveals what senior leaders and managers are often missing: communicating especially in the workplace is not simply about sharing information.

Speaking and listening

Communication is about speaking so that other people will listen to you and listening so that other people will be willing to speak.  There are  three burning communication needs that people in every organization typically have and these needs are especially prevalent in times of rapid change, restructuring and when an organization needs better performance now.

When these needs are satisfied people are in a better position to be effective and achieve desired results and sadly to say when they’re not nobody should be surprised that people in the organization become frustrated, demotivated and just plain ineffective.

3 burning communication needs

  1.  We all need the information that is necessary to do our work efficiently and effectively. tThis can include knowing and understanding things like our current job assignment and responsibilities, instructions and updates on projects, receiving performance feedback, information on tactical plans or maybe something as simple as the deadline for report and/or the time of an important meeting;
  2. We all need to be informed and in the know about the things going on around us that impact our future. In our workgroup, our department our division or the organizational whole, we want to know what’s going on. Things like current operating performance new and future market opportunities, personnel changes, new technologies and the like all of these things give employees an important sense of what is happening and that they are part of something that is bigger than themselves.
  3. People need the means and opportunity to make their voices heard when they try to raise a concern or get a question answered or identify a business opportunity or share a new idea or make a suggestion or offer input on an important issue. When people know that they have a voice and that others are willing to listen this has a powerful impact on their job satisfaction, their motivation and their commitment to their organization.

Why effectiveness in communication is going down

despite the fact that we’ve never had more tools to communicate and we can communicate with each other like never before in human history communication is getting worse. And there might be some reasons for that:

  1. Organizations often have lots of information swirling around inside of them that’s not properly packaged to satisfy people’s needs. People often share information without making sure if the message is actually getting through. Our communication skills are among the first things to break down when removing near the speed of light trying to check off the many items on our gigantic daily to do list.
  2. We are all wrestling with an unprecedented volume of data and other information like never before. Ironically it’s that kind of information because of our technology breakthroughs that cause a sometimes great problems. We have more communication tools like email and instant messaging and text messaging and lots of social media just to name a few but are we communicating and you and you better.
  3. Our workplaces are much more diverse than in the past which adds another degree of complexity to the communication processes that we need to take into account. Factors such as generational differences culture, educational and socio-economic backgrounds are just a few of the things that can impact our ability to communicate effectively with each other.

Improving communication within organizations

People in any organization want an overall communication process that is ongoing organized and systematic and that’s designed to meet their needs rather than somebody simply doing something on a pell-mell ad hoc or crisis driven basis. The good news here is that the knowledge and ideas that you need about how to set up such a process within your organization is all around you.

Much of what leaders need to do and know about establishing good communications within their organization is already available to them if they’re only willing to ask their people for input and suggestions and listen attentively to their answers.  And there are some tools for addressing the communication needs that are already identified at a very fundamental weigh in virtually every and any workplace.

Tools to make communication effective

As you recall the first need for real communication focuses on the fact that people need information to successfully perform their jobs, and here are some communication practices that we can use to help meet those critical needs:

  • conducting regular one-on-one performance planning sessions to clarify performance expectations is a great thing to do;
  • providing written instructions and policies and work procedures that people can easily access them wherever and whatever they need at the time;
  • implementing ongoing one-on-one feedback sessions and coaching sessions to help people improve;
  • developing an organizational culture that encourages regular interaction with supervisors and coworkers;
  • we can consider using team meetings to share new information and performance feedback and to provide people an opportunity to ask pertinent and relevant questions;
  • we also need to provide information to people on an ongoing and systematic basis about the status of current projects and important programs;
  • in addition we might consider employing electronic and web-based information portals to provide people with current performance data and information.

The second need we discussed was that of being in the loop. The importance of giving people in your organization a clear understanding of what is going on around them. Communication of this sort is designed to give people the context to better understand the big picture of the enterprise that they’re operating in and where they fit in.  Here are some tools that you can use for that purpose:

  • we need to run effective and time sensitive staff meetings;
  • we could conduct town hall meetings were leaders and workers meet and discuss an agenda to share important information about what’s going on within the organization;
  • we want to provide people an opportunity to have their questions answered;
  • we could build webpages for internal use in the organization that provides people with the critical information that they want;
  • we can use organizational wide voicemail blast to communicate about big events or breakthroughs or big organizational successes;
  • we can employ teleconferences and web-based informational meetings to keep people informed without the cost and time associated with travel;
  • or we can create electronic whiteboards or maybe electronic boards to put information out there to provide people with up-to-date information around important issues in the organization right now;
  • we can send out informational updates via email blast and we can even consider producing an informational video that can deliver accurate information to your people in a very dynamic way.

Thirdly we need to recognize the importance of providing employees with a voice and an opportunity to express their concerns to offer input and have their questions answered. You can make that possible with a number of proven practices like:

  • getting leaders to engage and empower workers to take greater control over their work through participative leadership;
  • holding brainstorming meetings and input sessions with small groups of employees on a one-on-one basis with leaders and employees to solicit their input;
  • consider team-based problem-solving or Kaiser nonevents to solicit employees ideas about how to deal with organizational problems and performance challenges;
  • we can also implement continuous improvement processes across the organization, these processes such as Six Sigma or Lean have become very popular in the business world;
  • we could consider making use of employee surveys and suggestion systems or hotlines for gathering additional employee input;
  • conducting regular effective staff meetings where employees can express concerns share ideas and voice their opinions with their immediate supervisors also helps.

Effective communication is also a matter of trust

Effective communication practices are essential for well-run organizations, but it’s important to recognize that they don’t necessarily ensure success unless the people who are doing the communicating are viewed as trusted sources of information.

They also need to be able to deliver and receive information in a highly effective fashion that’s why leaders and the people they work with need to communicate and engage in communication related practices that are both character and competency driven.

Six critically important communication lessons

  1. Take every communications opportunity seriously –  Know that each and every opportunity to communicate in an organizational setting is either problem-solving or a problem creating experience based on our action. This means it’s essential that we take communicating with other people very seriously and that we are motivated to be understood by others and we seek to understand what they have to say to us in turn.
  2. Your credibility is key –  Never underestimate the importance of the credibility of the communicator. It’s not just a matter of personal character or communication skills If you give other people inconsistent information or make a promise that you failed to keep people will learn very quickly that your words aren’t worth their time and their attention.
  3. Be self-aware –  Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in communications. One key component of it self-awareness encourages us to know and understand our strengths and our weaknesses as communicators and how our emotions can impact our exchanges with other people.
  4. Be socially aware and empathetic  –  It’s important to develop your social awareness and your empathy so you can be sensitive to the needs of the audience and tailor make your message to meet their needs. You also need to be cognizant of whether or not the message you are sending out is getting through and whether or not people are actually listening carefully to what you are saying.
  5. Exercise self-management  –  Another element of emotional intelligence self-management completed critical role in helping you and me improve as communicators. You will need to have the ability to monitor your own speaking and listing practices and to take corrective action when you discover that they are lacking. In many cases we are not aware of the things that we do that damage our interaction with others.
  6. We have to connect with everyone every day –  The cornerstone of every relationship is our ability to communicate and listening is an essential part of it. That means you need to develop and refine your listing skills with everyone you work with.

Effective communication is all about speaking so that other people are willing to listen and listening so that other people are willing to speak. Whether you’re a boss or an entry-level employee make sure that your communications with the people you work with don’t only flow in one direction. Express yourself clearly but always be willing to listen and encourage an open exchange of ideas.