No Such Thing as ‘Once and Done’: Practice Makes Perfect in Communication
Does your organization practice open dialogue? You may think that anonymous comment box or the annual open forum suffices for your colleagues to express themselves, but your business will miss out on the majority of the fantastic knowledge, insights, ideas, reforms and solutions your staff isn’t able to share. Here are three tips that will change the way you communicate with them.
1. Lead by Example
Quality dialogue doesn’t happen by chance – it takes a commitment to practicing and continually improving. If improving the communication at your organization is a priority for you, understand that there is not a “once-and-done,” catch-all solution. It takes a constant, conscious effort.
As a leader, your job is to open the lines of communication and lead by example. Practice communicating effectively with your leadership team; convey your goals and vision to them and see how your message is conveyed down the ranks to the frontline employees. Bottom-up communication cannot take place without first establishing top-down.
Remember also that different employees may not feel comfortable communicating in the same way: for example, while one might have the confidence to lodge a complaint directly with a supervisor, other options should be available for the employees who prefer an alternate approach.
2. Reach a Wider Audience
Your team comprises a variety of different learning types: some are extroverted, some introverted. Some are visual learners, others auditory. The best way to convey your message across the board and to ensure it reaches as many people as possible is to make that message available in different formats, and if necessary, on a regular basis.
One bi-annual memo on goals will not suffice. Repeat the general ideas of your message, but change up the formatting, wording and timing so that it stays fresh and hits home with employees.
You have plenty of options to choose from, including formal and more casual modes of communication – everything from a quick one-on-one conversation at the water-cooler to a bi-weekly email reminder can work – but only if you work at it.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
Consider drafting a communications plan, (complete with SMART goals) and then follow through on the steps to attain that objective. Strong, healthy communication in your workplace takes diligence to create and maintain: Old habits need to be uprooted and new habits closely guarded lest they be abandoned or forgotten.
So commit to the best practices of open communication and initiate the process by beginning with yourself. Start not only by communicating clearly, but also by taking advantage of the many different forms of communication that appeal to your team.
Finally, practice active listening. Employees won’t share their insights or issues if they do not know how you will receive it: so stay positive, thank them for their input, and, where possible, take action to demonstrate you respect their opinion and care about their role with your organization. Remember, your silence or inaction sends a message too.