The Lasting Effects of Communication… Or Lack Thereof

Leaders in every business and organizational structure have been instructed, reminded, and repeatedly told that communication is essential. The adage that, “in an absence of information… people will fill in with the worst-case scenario” is often taken to heart by many in such a way that communication can become an exercise in compliance, rather than a vehicle to enhance clarity and build the capacity of the team.

It is exceptionally important for you others in positions of authority to carefully consider the topics and information that will best inform customers, vendors, shareholders, and those who are part of the team internally. The content of the message can help people to feel, not only informed but included. Yet, the content of the message is only a part of the communication that is taking place.

Carefully considering the medium utilized for communication can also have a great deal to do with its effectiveness. Written communication is usually expedient and relatively easy to distribute. Email, printed documents, or statements posted through various platforms, all allow your reader to simply infer the emotion and intention of the person doing the communication, without actually knowing what that intention is. They very well may not receive the message with the intended tone, inflection, or empathy.

Short video communication, brief messages in 220 characters, text messages, or social media posts all have pluses and minus’ with regard to recipient interpretation as well. As a leader, it is a significant mistake not to assume that the method of communication is sending a secondary message as well.

How Communication is Shared Matters Greatly

Choosing the right vehicle for the most effective communication possible means understanding the strengths and drawbacks of the platforms. Taking time to educate yourself on the advantages of specific platforms is a solid investment of your time. It is realistic to say that leaders who are intentional and thoughtful in their method of communication spend a great deal less time dealing with clarifications or misunderstandings. Using a single form of communication, simply because of familiarity or expediency can be quite limiting. It has the potential to create perceptions among the recipients that may not be what you intended.

Summoning individual seasonal employees by text message to release them from employment, as opposed to using a more caring strategy, has resulted in near insurrections among the remaining team members because of the perceived heartless approach by management is one example.

The practice of posting written messages taped to walls near urinals and in bathroom stalls as a method to have folks efficiently “multi-task”, is widely understood to convey a belittlement to the team members receiving their information from the bathroom wall. “Talking at people”, when there is an opportunity to “speak with them”, is a frequent mistake that many leaders make when the effort to communicate is not considered from the perspective of the recipient.

When there is an opportunity for a more personal style of communication, the time invested can be well worth it.

Thinking before Communicating

As you’re communicating with your team, the thought process of the following questions must be considered:

  1. What content must actually be communicated?
  2. How can communication be most effectively undertaken, with the most positive outcomes for the organization and those receiving the communication?
  3. In what way are the “purpose” or “goals” of the organization being advanced from this communication? In other words, “why” are we choosing to communicate this information in this manner?
  4. As a leader, have I anticipated the potential for misinterpretation?

By taking the time to prepare in advance; checking a potential communication with a trusted colleague before sending, and by thinking intentionally about the potential reactions to their communication; you stand the very best chance of leveraging communication for their intended purpose.

“People may forget what you say… but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

The right communication is just one step toward transforming your overall internal culture. Learn how to create the culture change your business needs to excel by downloading our FREE workbook: The Innovative Leader’s Guide To Transforming Company Culture…Starting With Yourself.