Communication is not binary – to tell or to not – but takes an understanding of how information is received and when it is received. Understanding and identifying effective communication can be the difference between success and failure at multiple levels. Taking a hard look at the factors that impact how people receive information is an important step to ensuring the right information is delivered at a time it can be actioned on. Below are some of the biggest communication myths I work to overcome in organizations and a foundation for building a successful communication plan.
1. MYTH – Communication Means Telling Everything
If I had a dollar for every organization that tells me they cannot communicate information because it's secret, I would be a millionaire. In fact, most organizations that hear they should communicate more often immediately shut me down for this reason.
Instead of seeing communication as an all-or-nothing game, start to think about what behaviors need to be changed. Often, we are trying to share private details to effect change, however, those are minuscule in the actual communication. Take time to understand the specific outcomes you want and focus on communicating those elements widely. Private information is often not needed to ensure action.
2. MYTH – You Can Say It Once
Again, I often walk into organizations that tell me that information was provided at a meeting, dropped in a Team’s channel, or emailed. However, when we dig deeper, we find that the message was not widely distributed.
Instead, take time to track who is getting this information and how they received it and look into expanding on these channels. When trying to reach a large group of people, it will often take repeated messaging through different channels to accomplish your goal.
3. MYTH – Information Provided is Actionable at That Time
This is a big one. Anyone who says something like “That was told to you at onboarding” or “Didn’t your manager tell you that would happen” has missed the mark. Information provided to others is not equal. Time and context matter.
Instead, understand that messages compete with a wide range of other information. People are often struggling to prioritize messages and will quickly deprioritize messaging that does not apply to them at the time. Make sure that messaging is clear and fits the context of the situation, or is available for review when the receiver can accept and process it at a later stage.
So what does effective communication look like? Well, a few things can easily be put in place to help make your communication more effective, and your team more effective as well.
1. Share Information, Often and With the Opportunity for Feedback
Remember, this does not mean you need to share everything. Instead, focus on sharing big-picture ideas on what is occurring. Make it clear when you are providing information or eliciting feedback. Most importantly, tell people what you want of them out of the interaction, so they have the opportunity to be part of the success of the messaging.
2. Be Honest in Your Communications
Sometimes the answer is you don’t have one, that’s a fine response when communication is open and honest. A clear Call to Action is effective, but sometimes you just need people to know what is happening in the space of their work. That doesn’t mean sharing personal details or concerns, instead, focus on what you need people to know, and let them respond to the situation with knowledge that can help them.
3. Respond When There is a Lack of Communication
Are there employees with concerns about something being completed behind the scenes? Maybe people are concerned about changes in the organization. Whatever the reason, remember that a lack of communication does not quell those concerns, instead it feeds paranoia. Communication doesn’t stop just because leaders are not talking, instead, it's filled with miss information and unrest. Take the time to listen and respond with details that can assist those in their job.
Effective communication not only leads to better employee outcomes, but it also builds trust. When people are part of the conversation, even carefully curated, they feel they can act. Effective communication means more people taking on the load and helping reach your goals. Take the time to invest in your team with knowledge. Build a communication plan that allows them to work with you, and not against the outcomes you are planning for them.