Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting Good at Communicating

Having worked with leaders and organizations (as a leader, speaker, trainer and consultant) for over 30 years, I’ve discovered that one of the most frequent “problems around here” is related to communication (or lack of). There are many different communication issues that I am referring to (and here’s the great part…they are all fixable!).
• Lack of communication
• Miscommunication
• Conflict
• Rumors and gossip
• Destructive conversations
• Not respecting privacy or company confidentiality
• Not following up
• Communication that is not timely
• Not knowing who to communicate to about what

Do any of these sound even a little familiar in your workplace? Here’s the good news. Most people are nodding their heads YES which means you are not alone. I know that doesn’t solve the problem, but it does let you know that other organizations and companies face similar challenges to your organization. Communication really involves four elements: information, sharing the message, receiving the message, and doing something about the message.
What’s the answer? Here are three important things to remember about communication:
1. Communication involves information. It is important to be clear on what the message is that you need to convey, how you will share the message, who the information is intended for and ask yourself “Is it clear and complete?” If the message is ambiguous or includes mixed messages it will likely lead to problems. Taking a few minutes to carefully consider your thoughts, and intended message will likely save miscommunication and confusion down the road.
2. Communication involves sharing the message (transmission). Explore the best medium for sharing the message (e.g. verbally, written, telephone message, email, letter, storytelling, etc.). Ask yourself which method of communication is best suited to the message (given all that you must consider such as confidentiality, company policies, relationships, etc.).
3. Communication involves receiving the message. No matter how much preparation, time and thought you put into information sharing and communication, it is still possible for the transfer of information to go awry. What can you do to ensure that the person on the receiving end of your message actually gets what you meant, and in the way you intended it? Be clear, ask questions, check for his/her understanding of what has been said.
4. Communication involves doing something about the message. Sometimes the doing is simply being aware of the information that has been shared, and sometimes it requires a specific action. It is important to be clear on what needs to be done as a result of the communication, sometimes this is the first action.

When you communicate effectively during each of the four elements of communication, the likelihood of miscommunication, conflict, and other communication challenges is greatly reduced.

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