Sherry and I were sharing a cup of coffee together last week when she mentioned a funny recent occurrence. She was on vacation out west when she started getting texts from her friends at work--various versions of "Congratulations" and "We're so happy for you!" Mystified as to their meaning, she called one of them...only to find out that she had been given a promotion. "I was delighted to hear it, of course," Sherry told me, "but it would have been nice to know first."
This is one of the better scenarios of miscommunication that occur every day in businesses large and small across the country. Less-endearing communication failures often form deep schisms of distrust and alienation within workgroups. In all my experience of working with companies, this issue is usually at or near the top of the heap in terms of culture drains. Few problems erode morale as quickly...and can be remedied as quickly with just a little vision and intentionality. Let's look at some best practices.
- Timing. The old maxim that timing is everything is still true. Early warning of coming changes makes people feel valued and "in the know." Learning after the fact has the opposite effect of generating insecurity, fear, and disunity.
- Frequency. Regular, thorough updates from the executive suite communicate more than news; they communicate respect. They function as the "oil" in the machinery that reduces friction and enhances integration.
- Bidirectional. Thriving leaders also invite feedback on a regular, thorough basis...realizing that the view from the top is only half the picture in any organization. It's a telephone, not a loudspeaker.
- Transparency. Part of leadership-savvy communication includes a general disposition toward openness with information. One of my favorite clients shows full financial statements to its employees every month! This builds an impressive trust.
- Personal. Thriving leaders take every opportunity to get face-to-face with their people. Paper and digital communications merely reinforce the personal touch rather than replace it.
So how can you up the ante in your sphere of influence this week? Upgrading your communication practices is one of the cheapest, easiest way to enhance your team culture. Make one change now...and do it consistently. It will be felt from top to bottom.