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Over/Perfect Communication – No such thing!

So when was the last time someone told you that you were communicating with them too much? Specific to our work as managers and leaders, how often does your staff tell you, “Please stop communicating with us so much, we don’t need all that information.” Yeah, just what I thought – NEVER! So why is that so many companies either fail to communicate (anything) to their staff, or at the very least, they make the other mistake of waiting for “perfect” communication before talking with their employees? By perfect communication, I mean, when you want to have all information at your disposal, have all the “facts” and then communicate a message to your employees. I have news for you, in this day of social media (Facebook, Twitter), you are too late. You need to get in front of the message – stat.

Over CommunicateLet’s deal with these two issues separately. First of all, the concept that there is such a thing as “over” communication is complete rubbish. You can’t over communicate to your employees. Your staff has a vested interest in the well-being of the company and the factors that affect it. They want to be informed about things so they can best support the company. Information gaps, vague references and silence from management cause employees to get VERY unsettled. Companies that withhold information because they are worried that staff will leave if they tell them something, or think they will become disengaged, etc. have it all backwards. By doing this you cause the very thing that you are trying to prevent. Your basic plan should be:

1. Tell them what you know
2. Tell them what you don’t know
3. Tell them you will tell them more when you know more.
4. Let them know that if they hear something that doesn’t align with your message, they should talk to you and you will clarify for them (as per points #1 -3).

Simple… right? Doesn’t matter what the subject is, just follow that approach and you will be amazed at the lift you get in improved communication and engagement levels. The more proactive you are with your communication and informing of employees, even with information that you might think are subtle or inconsequential, the greater the level of trust you will establish with your staff. This is also a great way to weed out the rumour mill because if you are known to communicate facts to your staff and are proactive, they will tend to not buy into the rumour mill because they haven’t heard the information from you first. Bottom line – there is no such thing as too much communication. Communication builds trust, engagement and retention, but you have to make it part of your managerial DNA.

Secondly, the concept of perfect communication is a load of crap too. There will NEVER be a scenario where you have all the known facts, answers, etc. Do not wait to communicate to your employees until you have ALL the information you think you need to have. Get in front of things; follow steps 1-4 above. If you wait for “perfect” communication, the rumour mill will have done its thing and taken over and you are now going to spend more of your time dealing with fiction than facts. Which scenario would you rather deal with?

Communication on a macro level is a challenge for most managers and companies – there is no denying it. However, on a micro level, we tend to make things harder for ourselves than it needs to be. My free advice on a Friday is to START to “over” communicate and STOP waiting for perfect communication. Talk to your people, build trust, manage…….and lead. What about you? What do you think of these concepts? Do you think you can communicate too much with your staff? As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. Great practical and doable advice for a chronic leadership organizational issue and chief complaint from staff. You’ve also shone the spotlight on trust building as integral to managerial effectiveness. Master these key elements and you create a place where people want to work!

    Communication is a two way process. If staff perceives a communication gap they demonstrate accountability and contribute to the trust-building process when the identify the problem and offer solutions. Your framework combined with staff feedback will render poor communication a relic of the past! Keep up the terrific advice, Scott!

    • Hi Barb – thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your insight knowing the different industries and work environments you have experienced/been a part of. You make a great point about how if an an environment of trust is established, staff will demonstrate accountability and contribute to problem solving. Far too often organizations “assume” everything is a push function and staff have no interest in being involved in the solution.

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