Bad communication costs - and how!

In an earlier article I talked about leadership and the need to generate a sense of common purpose, a shared vision in your business. The key to this is clear and effective communication.

This is more important today than ever before-as we operate at greater pace with much less margin for error in our business decision-making. Its Formula 1 versus the old bangers of yesteryear!

Now that data can be shipped around the world in bigger and bigger volumes and at higher and higher speeds its easy to get the impression that we are communicating more - in fact its just the opposite. The key messages that we need to get across are often lost in a blizzard of e-mails, other such electronic junk or the ever present corporate spin and management speak.

Dont forget what we are trying to do, that is, to exchange information in a meaningful way. See that word exchange, it means that the process is two way, so that communication must never be a monologue!

That gives us a clue as to how we can start to communicate better - first of all, do some serious listening. Now I dont mean just the closing of your mouth for a short while, I mean consciously paying attention to what the other person is saying and putting some effort into truly understanding their message.

Weve all seen the situation where the listener merely uses his listening time to think about his next point in the discussion with no real interest in what the speaker says or thinks. You can often see the Im bored sign in the listeners eyes; please dont let it be you. Remember youve got two ears and only one mouth - that must tell you something - use them in that proportion.

Think about your message, what do you want to get across? If youre unclear about this then how can the other party stand a chance at understanding?

So ask yourself the question; what is it that I need to say? Be clear!
Make it easy for the other people involved, give them some background to your opinions, let them have as much information as they need, to understand where youre coming from. Remember, if youve taken notice of the previous paragraph then youve been thinking about these issues for some time, so help other people get up to speed, youll have a much better chance of taking them with you.

Check as you go along that the understanding is there, give people a chance to ask for clarification, ask them to pass back their interpretation of the situation, encourage this feedback. And ask questions yourself; dont leave any room for ambiguity;(its not like an election manifesto) as its bound to cause trouble later.

Mean what you say, tell the truth!

I think its worth remembering that some of the time youll be needing to do and say things that are unpopular, it goes with the territory. In these instances its understanding that you need to achieve, not necessarily agreement!
Here its a case of communication not negotiation!

Heres a quick checklist of things that might cause problems and a few suggestions that might help:

Complex messages
However complex you think the message is it can always be broken down into smaller concise packages. Feed the communication in small easily digested bights.

Language barriers
I dont mean necessarily French v Russian but more like Sales v Research.
Move some distance towards the other persons form of speech. Dont use heavy jargon - unless its the mutual language!

More than the words
Remember that verbal messages only form a small part of any communication, so use non-verbal skills to reinforce the message. Theres lots of evidence that our words only comprise a tiny proportion of our total message, body language and voice tone contribute an enormous amount. If youre not familiar with these skills then take the trouble to learn them - unless you think that you already know everything! I know that it might seem old fashioned but face to face is by far the best, video links, phone and email all give less and less emotive, helpful feedback, dont use them unless face to face is not an option.

Communication barriers
Just as in hill walking, if one route is ultra-hard then look for a way round. The detour will be worth it and the change in viewpoint can often work wonders.

Time and again research shows that poor communication is a major cause of poor performance. Many business people know this but still do little about it, dont you be like them, make the changes and enjoy the benefits.
Do it today, poor communication is already costing you and your company, how long can you afford it?

And remember:

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isnt being said. Peter Drucker

Stephanie Greasley has considerable experience as a senior business professional, operating internationally with more that 25 years experience, including 15 years in the ADC industry.

She held management positions with PSC, Symbol Technologies and ScanSourcewhere as MD she took the company from start-up to its position as Europes leading automatic data capture distributor.

She now works independently as an executive coach and business growth consultant in her own company CCI (Coaching Consulting & Implementation Ltd).


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