The importance of effective communication for managers and business owners can’t be overemphasized. Clear and effective communication from management increases efficiency, satisfies customers and improves quality throughout the organization.
What is effective?
Let’s define what we mean by “effective” from both the employee & management perspective. Our interest here is in how information, ideas and caring flow from management to employee and also how employee concerns are transmitted from employee to manager. Remember communication must be a two-way street to truly be effective.
As owners and managers we must communicate the company vision and objectives to each employee, along with our expectations for their particular position and role in reaching our vision. In the E-Myth management model, we do this through the strategic objective, organizational strategy and position contracts. For important agreements, getting it down in writing is often the difference between effective communication and communication that misses the mark between the person delivering the message and the receiver. Don’t shy away from the written word. The E-Myth system of management along with effective delegation and regulation, relies on written interchanges to make certain that both parties understand what is being communicated.
Effective communication is most easily achieved in an organization that has a clear structure and systematic ways to communicate. Again, let me re-emphasize, don’t be afraid of implementing written systems when they provide the most effective method of making certain both the sender and receiver acknowledge the same message or agreement. Nothing puts the team, or a manager and employee, on the same page as a written statement.
Consistent communication between an employee and their manager is fundamental to establishing an open, trusting culture. Company meetings, department meetings, and one-on-one employee development meetings all serve this end. While “management-by-walking-around” has its place and advantages, there really is no better way to ensure effective communication than scheduling regular meetings between managers and individual employees. This regular meeting is a commitment management makes to always address any issue that arises and it gives the employee the opportunity to ask questions, express concerns or seek mentoring and support.
Communication one can rely on with regularity along with a commitment to transparency is the kind of communication that builds trust between manager and employee. Transparent communication is open, honest and objective and allows for disagreement. Being a good manager requires that you balance the individual employee’s concerns and requirements with the overall needs of the business, and sometimes means making tough decisions. Transparency when the seas are rough is even more important than when there is clear sailing.
Effective communication has two phases; the transmission phase and the feedback phase. The transmission is the sending of a message, either verbally or written, phone, in person, e-mail or letter; and the second is the feedback phase or the acknowledgment that the original message was received and understood, or a restatement of the original message to make sure that it was correctly interpreted, or a request for more information. Getting this acknowledgment back is an important part of communication since we can’t consider it effective unless we know it’s been received and understood.
I hear you
Individual perceptions play a large part in the understanding of our communications. Body language plays an important role in getting our point across. Our body language may either be congruent or incongruent with the verbal message; something we want to be aware of during our face-to-face interchanges.
When asked to define communication, most of us say talking, writing or body language. But listening is equally important; especially when confronting difficult issues. Recognizing the importance of listening and making it a part of your culture improves communication considerably. Everyone can learn the art of active listening. The key to listening effectively is relaxed attention. Listen with your whole body, maintain eye contact and give verbal and non-verbal cues that you’re right with the speaker. Do your best not to interrupt.
If half of the equation in communication is active listening, the other half is expressing what you think, feel, or want in a true and non-defensive way. Be clear about what you want and what you are willing to give. Use “I statements.”
Communication is money
Employee surveys consistently demonstrate that ineffective communication results in poor employee morale which causes increased turnover and absenteeism, dissatisfied customers from poor customer service, higher product defect rates, lack of focus on business objectives, and stifled innovation.
Employees will put in that extra effort to create a high performance environment when they are kept informed openly and honestly on all aspects of their job and the business and they feel that they are being listened to with empathy.
A culture that places an emphasis on effective communication instills its value in each employee and provides tools and training to elevate everyone’s abilities. Fostering two-way communication gives employees adequate opportunity to ask questions, discuss and express their own ideas. Feedback loops, sharing best practices and having an open channel for ideas, innovations and suggestion for improvement ensure that employees and managers work together to achieve success. Effective communication is like cash in the bank and it helps grow your business like compound interest.
Share your story
What communication challenges have you faced in your business? How have you overcome them? Post a comment and tell us about it.