Where is the biggest challenge in business today?
Where are we least effective in combatting it?
You may be surprised that the answer to both questions is the same! The fact is that poor communication from the top down in an organisation is the biggest threat to progress and development within business.
Don’t just take my word for it. Many studies have shown the main thing that keeps progress stifled, just like pulling on the handbrake when you’re driving away from the stop sign, is the lack, or poor quality, of the communications in a company. Ariel Group of Lexington, MA, in the USA, states that,
“Your executive leaders may have the most influence in the company, but that doesn’t make them great communicators. In fact, not only are leaders often poor communicators, many fail to see their own shortcomings when it comes to this incredibly important skill.
Although leaders historically feel they are effective communicators, 60% to 70% of the managers working under them feel otherwise, according to management guru Tom Peters. Even if you have a 25% communication gap (versus the statistical 60% to 70% among leaders), this means a quarter of everything your leaders say is completely ineffective.
Why are leaders poor communicators? Research shows that the reasons range from being inauthentic to a lack of empathy. Issues include:
Every one of those limitations can be addressed with training that focuses on dynamic communication skills. The positive impact is even greater— and the leadership communication gap is exponentially lessened—if young professionals are better trained earlier in their careers. Each of those three points Ariel Group make can be addressed at an early level, but if they are allowed to grow and become a inherent part of the culture of an organisation, they run the risk of stagnating and being held back in the development of future business progress. Look at each one of those points in turn:
This means they have to become aware of what they are recommending and how that is being assimilated by the management teams and hence the staff themselves. We all have unconscious biases, and the expectation is that when we are in higher management, we have thought through what is expected and have concluded through effective strategic analysis what the best way forward actually is. If this isn’t so, we have to take a step back and analyse exactly how others need ideas to be communicated to them in different ways, and they have to appreciate others’ points of view may have to be taken into account.
Clearly-stated intentions are vital so people can see the value of following your analysis and identifying which direction you need to be going. Remember, your staff rely on you to point them in the direction the company needs to be going, so you have to also clearly outline the intended impact of what is going to happen. If people aren’t clear, they start to see negatives associated with the communication (or lack of it) so be aware of what is being passed on so you can manage expectations and not contribute to the negative rumours.
Yes, you may have been right most times previously in the way decisions have been made. But this doesn’t mean you can assume all your interpretations are correct every time. You need to keep looking further, testing your perspectives, analysing which direction they are taking you and building reliability in your processes. You may not be right every time, so look at how you can progress in your communication and think through the repercussions of decisions you are making. Poor communication doesn’t have to be the biggest factor holding you back in your management progress. There are always opportunities to build better communication bridges at work, and these three dynamics offered by the Ariel Group help us to be aware of what may go wrong, and how to overcome them.
Want to learn more? Then why not book an Advanced Management Skills course with MTD.
Originally published: 24 July, 2019
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