It’s not just approaching it with intentionality but focused intentionality around this simple thing: what is the outcome of the message that I desire? What is the outcome? Why am I writing this message? What is it I want people to both feel and know as I am writing this message? – JoAnn Sternke, Leader Coach, Studer Education| EP 72: Intentional Communication Starts with Why
Delivering consistent, clear, aligned information throughout an organization and its community can be a challenge depending on size and geography. Effective communication is one of a leader’s biggest obstacles to overcome. For one, effective communication means different things to different people.
People often report that poor communication is the largest, or one of the largest, problems in their organization. This raises the question: How big is this problem really? Studies show a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. This translates to an annual cost of $528,443, or $5,000 per employee. Inefficient communication isn’t only a large problem, it’s an expensive problem. What can leaders do to achieve effective communication internally and with targeted audiences?
When poor communication is standard, employees are less productive and organizations suffer from a loss of opportunity and customer dissatisfaction. Employees become unsure of their priorities, mistakes are made and customer complaints increase. Effective communication increases employee engagement, community involvement and builds the foundation for trusting relationships with the organization.
Effective communication first considers the audience that will receive the information. Employees are more productive and motivated when they understand what is being communicated and why it is being communicated. The communication method chosen impacts the ability for the receiver to understand the message we are trying to convey. No matter the method, the primary function of communication is to send a message that will be easily understood and interpreted correctly.
Our words and length of communication matter. Language can be used to build a barrier between people or to break down barriers and create alignment. When messages are communicated the right way at the right time, and to the right audience, better understanding and adaptation is the result. To communicate effectively, leaders plan and practice using Key Words at Key Times to intentionally communicate the message they desire.
Impact During a Crisis
We decided very early to start communicating with families. Just what we knew and what was happening. The goal there was to set the standard for them so they knew that we would be communicating regularly, they knew where it would come from and they could trust that it would be accurate. – Corey Golla, Superintendent, School District of Menomonee Falls | EP 70: Cultivate a Can-Do Culture
As Corey mentions in his quote above, trust is formed when we communicate regularly and people know what to expect. When we are silent, people assume we are holding information and fears set in. As leaders in organizations, we have a responsibility to transparently communicate with our employees and with our community. In the wake of COVID-19, it’s become more critical than ever to communicate and connect with people to reinforce trusting relationships.
Following the advice of Quint Studer, when in doubt lean on more communication. During times of crisis, people want to hear from the most senior leader within the organization. It’s a good idea to hand off topics and questions to specific leaders in human resources or sales, for example, when it comes to the specifics of their roles. However, we calm anxiety and establish a sense of stability when people hear from the top.
There are just so many emails, and you can really over communicate I think with volume as opposed to mindful content… Our staff know that they can trust every day that communication is going to come out and it’s going to deliver to them what they need when they need it. – Dale Shaver, Director of Parks and Land Use, Waukesha County | EP 68: Focus on the Positive
To avoid overwhelming audiences with unnecessary communication for the sake of communicating, we encourage leaders to approach their messages with intentionality focused on the desired outcome of the message. Slow down. Think about what is in the moment that you need to respond to and design that message really well. During a recent podcast interview, JoAnn Sternke provided some effective communication tips for leaders during a crisis:
- Don’t just inform. First reassure, then inform.
- Plan Your Communication:
- What is the intended outcome from this message?
- Why am I writing this message?
- What is it I want people to both feel and know as I am writing this message?
- How are you going to deploy the message? Who needs to hear it? Who needs to hear it first? Second? Third?
- Use communication to Bring Everyone’s Strength Together (BEST).
- Stories inspire. Find the hero in your organization right now and share their story.
Finding the right cadence of communication requires leaders to ask their teams and communities for feedback, listen and make the necessary adjustments. Are you communicating enough with your stakeholders? How will you communicate that you care? What can you do to improve the communication within your organization? What can you do to improve the communication outside of your organization?
EP 72: Intentional Communication Starts with Why
with JoAnn Sternke
EP 70: Cultivate a Can-Do Culture
with Corey Golla
EP 68: Focus on the Positive
with Dale Shaver