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Communication 101

I find that one of the biggest challenges that organizations and their leadership teams wrestle with on a regular basis is how and what they should be communicating to their employees. I have often seen that leadership teams tend to overthink and over complicate the quantity and content of the messages they need to deliver. This over complication stems from senior leaders coming up with every possible negative consequence or response to the message that needs to be communicated. This over analysis occurs to such an extent that the final decision that is made is to NOT communicate anything! The reason being, in their minds, it is “easier” or simpler that way.

Announcement ImageOf course, as we know, that is absolutely the wrong approach. I firmly believe as organizational leaders and stewards, we need to focus more on finding reasons to communicate SOMETHING to employees vs. finding reasons to NOT communicate. There is no such thing as too much or bad communication. Let me repeat that, there is no such thing as too much or bad communication when it comes from organizational leadership.

For the context of this post, I am focusing more on bigger picture things that effect organizations holistically. I believe that anytime your company is faced with things like, for example, organizational acquisitions, executive departures, large scale events that impact the economy and/or internet rumours affecting your company, you need to get in front of things and communicate to your staff. Even at a more micro level, if there are internal or external factors impacting your department, as a leader, you need to get in front of things and communicate to your staff.

I have always believed in a basic, fundamental communication philosophy when it comes to communicating to your employees:

  1. Tell them what you know (or, tell them what you are “allowed” to tell them)
  2. Tell them if you don’t know something
  3. Tell them that you will follow up with them when you do know more

That’s it – if you follow that approach, you will enhance your communication efforts and results dramatically. Employees aren’t looking for the nitty gritty details on everything. You have smart people that work for you – they just need to know the basic info about what is going on. They want to know that you care about communicating to them and that you trust them with information. Anytime leadership and managers enter the proverbial “cone of silence” the rumours will start. Employees will gossip more, make things up in the absence of information and before you know it, the message has taken on a life of its own. I have found more often than not that what employees “make up” is often way worse than what the actual truth is!

Fundamentally, communicating to your employees is an exercise in building trust. As leaders, we need to always be looking for ways to build trust with our employees as that is the fundamental tenant of a good employee/employer relationship. Trust starts with communicating – if you aren’t communicating, you aren’t building trust. If you aren’t building trust, you aren’t establishing solid, long term relationships with your employees and that is the core message of communication 101. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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