By Sandra Wiley
As we survey team members and ask them what leaders could do to improve culture and engagement in their organization, the overwhelming No. 1 response we hear is, “We need better communication.”
The response I get from leaders is, “We have been working on that every year; will it ever be good enough?” My answer is no, you will be working on this for as long as you are in any relationship. So, what are some ideas for improving communication in your organization and continuing to build on past initiatives?
- Use your words and watch body language. Nothing is more uplifting than face-to-face word exchange, better known as talking. Talking daily with your team members about their projects, their clients, their fellow team members and new initiatives is better than anything else you can do to communicate effectively. However, watch your body language. If you are trying to fake interest in people, they will see it by the way you are standing, slumping, looking at your watch, or looking at your computer screen. When you give them your time, give them your total attention.
- Listen, and don’t judge. When you enter into a conversation with people, the most important thing is to allow them to talk to you and share their thoughts. Listen with intention, and don’t place judgment on what they are thinking. You are there to listen, to clarify and to hold a conversation. Nothing will build a trusting relationship more than to really listen.
- Practice being open and honest. Human nature and life experiences can lead us to be closed in our communication. Although we are not being openly dishonest, we often don’t let go of much information until we have to. I encourage leaders to practice being open and honest in their communication with the team. Share the overall goals. Share the vision for the future. Share the challenges that the organization is facing. Share the expectations you have for the team. You get the picture, so start sharing.
- Ensure awesome meetings. If we did a survey on what frustrates people working on a team, a common answer would be meetings that drone on forever, with no apparent purpose. Ensure that your meeting have a purpose, a specific time to begin and end, an agenda, a leader/facilitator, a note taker and specific action items.
- Know your audience members and put them first. As you consider the people you will be meeting with, think about how they will best receive information. Do they like details? Do they prefer a process or agenda? Do they like bottom lines and quick pieces of information? Know the people in your audience and deliver the message in the way that they will best receive it.
- Open your door – really. We often hear leadership groups claim to have an open door policy, but when we talk to the rest of the organization, they roll their eyes and tell us that while their door is physically open, that does not mean that the leader is available. It is impossible to have an open door with availability all of the time, but a great way to develop a true open door policy is to schedule times on your calendar that you are available for communication with the team.
- Practice performance coaching. Performance coaching is more than an annual conversation about the number of hours that someone has billed. It is an ongoing conversation with individuals who report to you about their professional skills. Conversations should include technical skills, core skills and technology skills. Performance coaching should focus on developing team members and helping them to be the best that they can possibly be.
Go through the list. Find areas in which you and your organization can improve, and then commit to making this the best communication year ever in your firm.
Sandra Wiley is COO and shareholder at Boomer Consulting Inc. Reach her at +1 (888) 266-6375, ext. 121, or Sandra.email@example.com.