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Get down to business and communicate.

“The biggest problem with leadership communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” — Boyd Clarke & Ron Crossland, The Leaders Voice™

Every year, trainers and managers rank communication one of the top 10 training and challenge topics. In many cases, we know we need help with communication because problems have already crop up:

  • Profits are down because information and resources weren't shared
  • Coworkers are resisting the path of change
  • Supervisors don't know how to interact with employees or tap into strengths
  • Opportunities for real improvement are missed because of ineffective or non-existent performance management and evaluation meetings.

Whether it's the way we talk, listen, or react to certain personality types, individual styles, and situations, improving communication is the most important investment we can make in our professional and personal lives.

With the right tools, we have the capacity to address communication before problems occur.

How exactly does communication become a problem and get derailed?

Communication is so pervasive in work lives that we take it for granted often overlook it as a source of problems. But three communication problem areas remain among the well-documented. 

  1. Within teams, individual problematic communication behavior gets coupled with varied interpretations of the task or individual role.
  2. Among and between groups and management, conflicting needs, expectations, and communication norms can break down.
  3. As stress organization stress increases, improper methods, timing, withholding, and content of information can intensify.

Communication Responsibilities

Taking a proactive approach helps to eliminate communication problems before they happen and eliminate the hidden costs of fixing problems. The Blake Group’s work with a client clearly showed that due to miscommunication and conflict they were losing $16,320 per week. 

Define policies and objectives: Ensure they are understood and accepted.

Management sets expectations for the organization as a whole before employees can do their jobs, satisfy their customers, and strive to improve the quality of their work.

You can work on the clarity of your organizational vision, policies and objectives and purpose by asking a few basic questions:

  • Does the way we define the business pull us together in a way that makes sense?
  • Does the way we define the business concentrate on real opportunities for the years ahead?
  • Do our strategies make sense for our company and our times?
  • Do our strategies provide us the right direction?
  • Do our objectives clearly state our key targets?
  • Do our objectives specify success measures?

2. Specify roles and responsibilities

Each employee must take responsibility for the work he or she performs.  It is management's obligation to ensure employees understand what is being asked of them. 

Specify and communicate expectationsIdentify and allocate resources to achieve them.

Before taking responsibility for their work, employees must possess knowledge of management's expectations, knowledge of why the task is being performed, and empowerment to carry out assigned tasks.

3. Strive to improve

Management creates an environment that encourages employees to improve the quality of the work and work processes with which they are associated. 

4. Invest in your people

Employees should be afforded the appropriate education and training, including professional development and on-the-job training.

5. Ensure the right people have the right information at the right time

Make information needed to make decisions available to employees when they need it.

6. Seek and use relevant experience

Use each other. Management makes use of information, such as new technology or lessons learned, from internal and external sources, which could potentially affect operations.

By recognizing past failures and successes, and establishing a no-fault assessment system, management will be better prepared to promote a culture committed to excellence.

7. Plan and control work

This requires that needs be thought out, organizational goals be identified, lines of communication be established, and required labor is provided.

8. Use the right material, tools, and processes

Control any changes to them. Management ensures that the right material, tools, and processes are in place and used so that the organization's products and services are of the highest possible quality.

9. Assess work to ensure it meets expectations

All employees assess their efforts and determine whether they have accomplished what they set out to do as part of meeting the business goals and objectives expectations. 

10. Identify and remedy errors and deficiencies.

Foster a no-fault attitude with which problems are viewed as opportunities for improvement, not punishment.

Management, at all levels, continually assesses its systems and processes. These assessments determine the effectiveness of the management process, rather than establishing compliance with organization and statutory requirements.

They address broad categories or management issues, such as the mission of the organization, employee understanding of management's objectives, and customer expectations.

Excerpted from: Leading the Total Quality Mission: aligning principles, practices and management, by Orlando Blake, Ph.D. CPT.  Available from Get To The Point Books for $12.95.

Are you an effective communicator?  Take this assessment and find out: Effective Communication Questionnaire on The Blake Group website.

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