Ever said ‘We need to improve communication around here’?

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Ever said ‘We need to improve communication around here’?

Here are a few ways you can….

One of the greatest complaints we hear about workplaces is how bad the communication is.

Communication is a very broad area and it can mean different things to different people.

These are the types of comments we often hear about communication:

  • “When was that decision made? No one tells us anything around here!”
  • “How did they (management) come up with that bright idea? Did they ever think to ask us what we thought?”
  • “My supervisor/manager never asks me much at all. They wouldn’t know what’s going on.”
  • “The right hand wouldn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

Communication is like the spine in our bodies – it’s where everything is linked.

Communication is not just letting everyone know what is going on. It’s about listening, hearing from the team, working together to solve problems, dealing with conflict appropriately, being organised, seeking help from others and having a good flow of information so your business operates efficiently for your team and your customers.

Here are some simple structures, disciplines and principles you could utilise to improve communication in your workplace:

  1. Catch Up meetings

A regular meeting every Monday for each person to share a summary of their previous week, a highlight/lowlight and what is coming up for them this week. The purpose of this meeting is information sharing, problem solving and a way of organising your week as a team. This helps communication, as team members hear what is going on for others and can then identify where they may be able to offer assistance.

  1. Sharing major decisions

After management, board or council meetings, a short meeting to share decisions made with your teams can be very helpful. This process ensures that the team can hear first-hand what is happening and what is needed moving forward.

There might be a temptation to share this information on email and in some cases that is better than not all. Email has its risks though, as some people don’t read their emails, or don’t read them in a timely manner.

However, if you take the time to have a meeting (face to face/Skype) people can quickly ask questions to increase understanding, and explanations can be given.

  1. Hearing about changes

A key component of a change management plan is the communication plan. Put simply you need to:

a) Consider your audience e.g. staff, supervisors, managers, executive team, board/council, suppliers, customers and then

b) Determine how best to communicate with this audience so that they hear you, e.g. email, presentation, face to face

c) Determine what you need to tell them and how often. In changing times communication is your greatest tool. Communicate constantly.

Don’t just think one blanket email is going to cut it!!

This repetitive process helps communication and through this you will eventually hit the mark with most staff. The style and language you choose for different audiences will create even better impact.

Yes, it takes longer than the ‘one email to all’, but it will be far more effective in saving you time in the end and also shows your consideration for the people involved.

  1. Regular review meetings and problem solving

You can learn so much about what is going on, what issues people have and what challenges the team has by getting together to review, diagnose and make plans. You know the process we are going to suggest to use – the Action Learning Cycle!

Depending on the size of your team, we suggest that these meetings are monthly or every 6 weeks. Everyone comes prepared having thought through the following questions:

Reflection

  • What has happened since last meeting? (summarised version!)
  • What is going well?
  • What isn’t going well?

Learnings (Diagnosis)

  • What are the key Issues – why do we have the problems we do?
  • Why are we having the ‘wins’/ successes we are? What’s the key ingredient?

Plans

  • What now? What are the actions?
  • What do we need to do to change things?
  • What do we need to keep doing because it is working?
  1. Develop your systems

Think about a time when you were a customer and you had a poor experience. You may have found ’that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.’ This issue can often be traced back to poor or non-existent systems and processes.

No matter what your business is, it is likely that there are several people performing tasks to provide your product to the customer in a timely manner. You need to ensure that you have a step by step approach, that everyone is clear about their role in that process and that if they don’t perform these tasks there are implications – for themselves, others and the business.

Poor communication can occur when the system doesn’t exist or is not followed and things fall through the cracks.

  1. Conflict is an opportunity

When there is conflict in the team don’t sweep it under the carpet. Help those in conflict to sort through their issues and listen to what the real problems are. Sometimes conflict is a personal clash, however often it boils down to two issues. Poor systems and poor communication! Sorting conflict out helps with communication as you uncover the real issues and then have a greater likelihood of fixing them.

  1. Get out of the office and walk the floor

This point is for supervisors and managers. Constantly sitting in your office and attending meetings can isolate you from your people. Your role as a leader is to support, listen, coach and develop solutions. Walk the floor often and you will hear lots of information you wouldn’t otherwise hear sitting at your desk! As we say, you can’t have presence if you aren’t present!

  1. Don’t rely on email

Email is a wonderful tool for sharing information, documents and quick messages. However, sometimes it’s the ‘fall back’ method used to communicate when we think we are too busy to speak with people face to face.

We think email gets used way too much. It’s not the forum to ‘strike a deal,’ sort conflict, discipline a staff member, or deal with a customer complaint. It’s not the best either for consulting the team for their ideas. By the time you collate all the individual thoughts, a short succinct well-run meeting can do that, plus you can develop synergy when people are together.

Also, it’s our opinion that many people use the ‘paper trail’ excuse as to why they use email only to deal with important matters. Pick up the phone, make a meeting time and ‘talk to a warm body’ as the saying goes. Email can then be used as a support tool to put things in writing after you have come to a conclusion. It is far from being the most effective or time efficient way for reaching a resolution.

  1. Get organised and seek help

When working with others you will always need help, ideas and input. Plan ahead and give people plenty of notice if you are going to ask them to be involved with what you are working on.

Be specific and clear with what you need (including dates, times, purpose and outcomes), when you need it by and any additional information that will help team members be productive. You don’t want to be known as someone who springs things on others and they feel like saying to you:

‘A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.’

  1. Speak honestly

A good leader I know uses the phrase, ‘I am going to be transparent here.’ When they do this, I appreciate their honestly and I respect their authenticity. They are being clear about what they are communicating and not ‘beating around the bush.’ This helps me trust the person.

Along with being transparent, comes the importance of being specific enough so you aren’t misinterpreted. Lack of clarity can create confusion. This helps communication, as your verbal and written messages are received the way you intend them – ‘say it so people hear you.’

Good communication is the key to creating a successful business. Don’t let ‘busyness’ get in the way of communication. You can create a culture of good communication in your work place – all it takes is some planning, commitment and systems.

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