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January 2012

Effective Communication in the Workplace

Reliable concepts and techniques leaders can use to encourage information-sharing within their company

Every leader can improve the way they communicate with both their employees and frontline managers. After all, ineffective communication often leads to poor cooperation and internal coordination, decreased productivity, and increased tension, absenteeism and turnover. Voids in communication are then filled with extremely damaging gossip and rumors. These repercussions seriously undermine a leader¹s efforts to facilitate change within their organization, a crucial ability in today¹s business climate.

Here¹s a list of proven concepts and techniques leaders can use to improve communications throughout the organization:

  • Create a two-way process. Communication does not end when a leader is finished delivering his or her message; it¹s a two-way process that involves giving information and receiving feedback. It¹s an ongoing exchange as questions are answered, additional information is given, and further feedback and input is solicited.
  • Emphasize personal communications. The convenience of voice mail and e-mail has made impersonal communications a reality for many leaders. Rather than rely on these electronic media, as well as bulletin boards, memos and other like methods of communication, leaders should use personal exchanges and stress face-to-face meetings whenever possible. This helps eliminate miscommunication, as it allows the parties to readily interpret nonverbal facial expressions and body language.
  • Be specific. Vague statements or instructions cause a good deal of miscommunication because it fails to clearly and concisely direct or inform employees. Since vagueness is open to a variety of interpretations, confusion quickly sets in. Every time a leader conveys a message or gives an instruction, it should be clear, concise and specific. If not, they must restructure the communication so that it is.
  • Provide a service. Leaders should view the delivery and availability of information as a service that enables managers and employees to be more productive and make better-informed decisions. It¹s in this service sense that information should be considered powerful.
  • Show respect. Effective and open communication demands that all parties respect one another. Leaders, managers and employees should ask questions to show interest and further clarify key points. This practice ensures everyone feels like an important part of a team, and contributes to a more dedicated and productive workplace.
  • Create an open-door policy. Leaders don¹t give lip service to an open-door policy, they practice it. They take the time to be accessible so they can interact with employees. They keep their finger on the pulse of the organization by openly discussing needs and problems, and by allowing employees to disagree and contribute new ideas and insights. This practice demonstrates a sincere concern for employees while building an endearing sense of loyalty.
  • Host one-on-one meetings. Whenever possible, leaders should have individual meetings with their employees to develop insight and ideas regarding how to increase productivity within the organizational unit. Discussions should focus on ways leaders and employees can help one another be more productive.
  • Build credibility. Unless leaders create a climate of credibility, their employees trust them. This, in turn, hinders the communication process and ultimately destroys the ability to lead. True leaders deliver on their promises and do what they say they will do.

Adapted from "Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series" (Majorium Business Press, 2011) by Timothy Bednarz

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