Pulse Point – “Can’t Know What You Don’t Know”
What an oxymoron, right? Too often, expectations, feedback, and general business information are not clearly communicated leading to confusion, frustration, and money down the drain. “A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit illustrates how poor workplace communication can hurt the success of a workplace — it may result in:
Failure to complete projects — in 44% of the cases,
Low employee morale — in 31% of the cases,
Missed performance goals — in 25% of the cases, and;
Lost sales — in 18% of the cases.”1
“David Grossman reported in “The Cost of Poor Communications” that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees. Debra Hamilton asserted, in her article “Top Ten Email Blunders that Cost Companies Money,” that miscommunication cost even smaller companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.”2
With these costs, it’s obvious that there’s some work to do! It seems simple when someone says, “all you have to do is clearly communicate and everyone will be on the same page…” But how do you do this to eliminate the disconnects and misunderstandings that happen all the time? Here are 5 tips and tricks to get better at communicating:
1. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Leadership Skills
I’ll focus on 2 EQ skills in this article - interpersonal relationships and empathy.
The definition I use for this is from my MHS EQ certification – the interpersonal relationship leadership skill is, “the ability to develop and maintain mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion.”
When building and maintaining relationships, focus on being authentic, getting to know the other person, and sharing relevant information.
It’s much easier to communicate with someone with whom you have a relationship with.
This is all about listening. Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” We need to change this by stopping and listening more.
Developing empathy leadership skills involves 3 actions:
Understanding someone else’s thoughts/feelings/beliefs
Appreciating/recognizing someone else’s thoughts/feelings/beliefs
Articulating in your own words your understanding of someone else’s thoughts/feelings/beliefs
Truly listening and understanding someone is a powerful tool in communicating and building trust.
2. Be Clear, Concise, and Consistent
Think about your audience – what is the message you need to communicate, what’s the best way to communicate it, and what context do you need to provide.
You get more focused when you are concise – eliminate jargon and filler word and keep it simple.
Communicate on a regular basis and remember that sometimes you may need to reiterate your point. I’ve heard that it takes someone hearing a message 7 times before they take action.
3. Set Clear Expectations Including Consequences
This sounds like a no brainer but often as an employee, we don’t know our expectations and the related impact they have on ourselves, the department, and/or organization.
Make sure you get specific examples of these expectations and not just generalizations that are obscure and subjective. For example, if you told someone on your team (or were the employee and you were told this), “complete this project to quality standards and as soon as possible,” I bet each of you would have different definitions of “quality standards” and “as soon as possible.”
We must reduce the ambiguity and be clear.
Also, make sure you know what the consequences are when expectations are met and not met. There could be personal consequences, such as impacts in salary, performance plan ratings, or even future career trajectory. You should also understand what the higher-level consequences are, like internal and external relationships and sales.
4. Give and Seek Feedback
A saying that has stuck with me, “if I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t give you feedback.” Sometimes this helps change our mindset to providing feedback. But also remember that as a manager/leader, your job is to grow and develop your employees.
So how do you give feedback? I recommend using the STAR and STAR AR methods I learned through my DDI Facilitator Certification and trainings I conduct.
Here’s what the acronym STAR stands for:
ST - Situation / Task– provides the context.
A – Action - explaining what was done (or not done), as well as how it was done.
R – Result - revealing what was the impact of the Action (or inaction).
Here’s an example:
We had to quickly implement a new tracking system at a busy time.
You learned the system first, and then held a short but thorough training session today for the team.
Everyone has a much better understanding now of what to do, and you saved us time!
Here’s what the acronym STAR AR stands for:
STAR – Same as above
A – Alternative Action – the person could have taken or what the person could have said differently.
R – Enhanced Result – that might have been the outcome of the alternative action.
Here’s an example:
In your desire to meet the client’s request, you didn’t notify Jordan first.
You wrongly accused him of costing you the sale,
which led to an argument and no resolution.
If you had addressed his concerns instead,
you might have prevented the conflict and devised a way to meet the client’s need.
If you aren’t receiving the direct feedback as shown above, you need to ask for it. This creates alignment between you and the person(s) measuring your performance which in turn decreases the chance of misunderstandings and even surprises come formal evaluation time.
5. Err on the Side of Overcommunication
When in doubt, overcommunicate!
Also, don’t just communicate the “big things” or emergency items; create information flows within your organization to make sure each employee hears what they should and need to.
If there are missing pieces, you run the risk of people creating their own narratives; it’s much better to be upfront and transparent with everything.
BONUS: In my “Digital Body Language: Punctuation, Channels, and Emojis, Oh My!” training session, we focus on how to communicate more effectively in this more digital and remote world – contact me if you or your organization are interested in learning more!
I challenge you to reflect on the 5 communication tips above to see what resonates with you and then lay out 1-3 small steps you can take to enhance your skills.
Communication and information flows are also very engrained in an organization’s culture. To assess where you and your organization are in your employee engagement culture journey, download my “Culture Pulse: Employee Engagement Questionnaire” here.
Don’t forget - Employee Engagement and Leadership work takes time. It’s all about being aware, learning what you need to do, and taking small steps every day to reach your vision! I’m here to help you with this journey, please reach out to chat!
I look forward to providing monthly pulse points to help you stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
About Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified
Jaclyn Badeau is the Founder and President of Badeau Consulting. She specializes in employee engagement initiatives that help companies inspire confidence back into their team for innovation and growth. Jaclyn’s background in cultivating high performing teams, delivering coaching and mentoring, serving as a global business risk advisor, and facilitating internal and external leadership training to a global workforce gives her the unique perspective of what employees need and what works. She is also a multi award recipient and passionate about sharing her expertise and knowledge in volunteer advisory and leadership positions roles for many associations and not-for-profits.
About Pulse Point
Pulse Point is a monthly blog to stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
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