We all aspire to be better communicators. We all know that communicating well will help us accomplish our goals, drive good outcomes, and add value to our colleagues and customers, and generate business.
But while we all may agree on the benefits of good communication, we generally think about poor communication as a momentary setback. Many of the people I interact with tend to fail to see the ways in which poor communication costs us personally over the long term, in a cumulative way, through a loss of credibility and a drag on advancement. Once poor communication becomes a part of our personal brand, it will effect everything we come in contact with in the workplace.
There’s a bigger picture, too: Company leadership often fail to see how poor communication hinders the organization as a whole. Collectively, poor communication can disrupt business on a fundamental level.
In other words, at both the individual and organizational level, we all tend to underestimate how poor communication slows everything down, and places a handbrake on progress.
Where do we see the cost most clearly?
1. Lack of focus: In an organization where communication is not prioritized, meetings are inefficient and ineffective. Because little gets accomplished in them, more meetings get scheduled, so that every member of the team feels overbooked, under-informed and generally unhappy.
2. Failure of purpose: When we are unable to communicate well on a day-to-day basis, there also tends to be a lack of shared purpose and direction. If our communications when we come together are poor, then coming together tends to be something we dread. And if we dread coming together, then we drift apart. And nothing good comes from that.
3. Lack of innovation: Imagine yourself in a meeting where a team is presenting a new project, product or process. The audience has clearly checked out: Half the room is checking a device and the other half is flipping through the PowerPoint deck to try to figure out the point of this meeting. Does anyone understand the new product or its benefits? Probably not, which means that it will likely be discarded. Multiply this across multiple meetings and multiple products, and you have a company that is stagnating.
4. Loss of credibility: This can happen at both a company and an individual level. As an individual, your ability to express yourself confidently and persuasively has a direct effect on your ability to accomplish your goals. As a company, the way your goals and innovation are represented outwardly — through client meetings or public relations — has an immediate impact on your business metrics. Without clear, effective communication, everything from sales growth to stock price will decline.
5. Drop in morale: The sum of all these issues? When people can’t communicate and connect, when people dread coming together as a group, when things don’t or can’t get done, that ends up being an organization with low morale.
So what do we do about it? We all know the cliché. The first step in solving any problem is realizing you have one. Recognition of the problem needs to happen first. But what’s the second step? In my experience, the solution to the problems of poor organizational communication need to be top down, not bottom up. And from the top down, there needs to be a recognition and commitment to do the following:
- Acknowledge the problem.
- Commit to making communication an organizational priority.
- Agree to a set of communication norms across the organization, that address the problems.
- Hold people accountable for changed behaviors.
Is it easy? Of course not. Is it achievable? Of course it is. But the change towards good communication skills needs to become an organizational commitment, top down.
Good luck, stay safe and have a great day.
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