The Value of Communication

I love hearing from Steve Browne. We follow each other on Twitter and Facebook, I’m on his HR Net list and I also get his occasional HR Round Table updates. All these different connections allow dialogue at different levels. Earlier this week I received the latest HR Round Table from Steve, which is all about communication. As always Steve encouraged me to share what I read with you, so I’d like to do just that. At first I began to edit Steve’s notes until I realised they have a flow to them, and the more I tried to edit, the clunkier the flow became. So – I stopped editing in favour of sharing the whole piece. I really enjoyed reading this and I hope there’s something in here for you too.

The Value of Communication 

The group discussed three things:

1)    What are the common obstacles and excuses regarding communication in companies?

2)    How do we value/elevate communication throughout our organisations?

3)    Why should we do this?

What are the common obstacles and excuses regarding communication in companies?

  • We’re too busy

This answer came so fast that it nearly bowled Steve over.  The “too busy” mantra is honestly like a plague.  You can’t quantify it and people can make themselves busy doing just about anything.  Busyness is a crutch that needs to be eliminated !!

  • Poor timing

Timing is a critical factor to effective communication.  Some people blurt things out just to make sure they’re heard.  They don’t consider the art of timing something so that it actually gets through to others and sticks.  Make sure to take note of this.  Timing is something that has to be practiced to be effective as well.

  • I only talk to people that “matter”

This is so self-centred it drips with ickiness !!  Steve shared a story that he loves to hear when vendors say, “I’d like to talk to the ‘decision maker’, “and Steve responds, “I just did.”   ALL people matter in an organisation.  If you try this kind of creepy approach, you need to be called on it because it’s unnecessary self-righteousness that has no place in a company’s culture.

  • People are intimidated

I love when Sr. Managers say that they don’t intimidate people.  You may think that, but people truly may be anxious to talk with others in the organisation if they work in different levels of the company.  Don’t blow this off or tell people that you’re accessible.  If you have to explain it – you aren’t.  Show that you are accessible through your behaviour and you’ll see communication channels open up more readily.

  • Technology

Now, don’t jump ahead on this.  The comment wasn’t for/against technology.  The fact is that you can communicate just as poorly using technology as you can in person.  Be aware of this and show people how to easily utilise technology forums vs. being critical and saying that people don’t “get it.”

  • Silos

Ah, the dreaded silo.  It permeates every organisation and is a true boulder when it comes to communication.  A silo may think communication is going great within its own confines, but it rarely gets outside of its own domain.

  • Insincerity

Wow !!  This was great to hear because too often throughout organisations you’ll hear catch phrase after catch phrase to make sure you’re saying what you’re supposed to say without communicating at all.  When people aren’t genuine, communication has no chance to be effective.

  • Cultural Differences

This is a reality and shouldn’t be an obstacle.  HR has to really push through on this to show the value of our differences as people instead of letting cultures, backgrounds, gender, etc. become a hindrance.  Note that this ISN’T a program !!  It’s how your company culture should be naturally !!

  • Too much noise

This item has much more credence than being too busy.  We are bombarded by constant stimuli and messaging from a myriad of sources all day.  This isn’t a work issue. It’s a life issue.  It’s hard to discern and cut through the noise to pay attention to messages that really need to be heard and acted upon.

How do we value/elevate communication throughout our organisations?

  • Tell people your processes

We need to quit thinking that people are just going to “get it” when it comes to communication throughout an organisation. Taking the time to explain how to communicate, who to get information to, and when to do it would make you more progressive than 99% of all companies out there.  Anytime we can give people clarity on how communication works in your company will only lead to stronger and more long lasting results.

  • Set the table

This is a true opportunity area for HR !!  Define how communication brings things together in your organisation and weave it through your culture.  Great communication should be the norm and not the exception.  However, the environment to do so needs to be intentionally established.  Attack the assumed culture in your company and make it open.

  • Go to people instead of having them come to you

Radical isn’t it?  Sitting and waiting for communication to appear never works.  It never has.  By being the person who initiates communication, you can get things moving.  This also addresses communication avoidance in your company.  Be the person who steps into the gap to make communication happen.  Quit waiting !!

  • Focus on relationships vs. drive by’s

When you truly foster relationships, communication becomes more clear because people get to know each other.  Too often, we shoot messages at each other just to get them out.  Yes, this takes time, but it’s time that is well worth the investment.

  • Leadership sets the tone

Here is one instance where Sr. Management leading the way is essential.  They can make communication valued by their actions and expectations.  In fact, if they choose not to do this, then poor communication is sure to be the model the company suffers through.  HR can lead in this as well by coaching Sr. Management on the value of making communication shine.  It’s a great way to be strategic !!

  • Don’t be dull

It’s amazing that this is so challenging for people.  Seriously, have YOU read what you write? We think that being engaging and entertaining in corporate communication is unnecessary and a waste of time.  The opposite is actually true.  Most communication in companies goes unheeded or unread. So, why follow the norm of the boring memo or the e-mail limited to 10 words or less?  This doesn’t mean to write novels to express yourself.  It means be creative.  Draw people in to get your message across.  It works !!

Why should we do this?

This should have been the first question.  You see, most companies follow the model of: What, How and Why (in that order).  We focus on the “what” and it is a vicious cul-de-sac of endless and useless communication.

We don’t focus on the “why” of communication, or many things in our companies honestly.  Steve referenced a TED talk by Simon Sinek here that shows you that companies who focus on their “why” are more successful in all they do.

The answer in this section needs to go back to your company because each culture and environment is different.  You need to step up, be intentional and take the steps to make communication valued in your company!!