If your organization suffers from a persistent communication problem and all your attempts at solving the problem have failed, it could be because poor communication is only a symptom of the real problem that you should be addressing. If you are constantly training your people on communication skills and trying one tool or process after another, only to see them seemingly go to waste, it is because your bottleneck is probably not a missing tool set or even skill set. If this is the situation you find yourself in, I submit that you don’t really have a communication problem, but rather a commitment problem!
Of course, I am not against training people and arming them with the right tools and processes when appropriate. On the contrary, I have done extensive work in my own organizations in that area with extremely favorable results. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to any problem, and leaders must use discernment to decide the best approach to address their organization’s specific issue. What I’m suggesting is that, unless you correctly diagnose and directly address to the root of the issue, all the tools and systems and skills you throw at it will be like icing on a mud pie!
One area where this “everything but the kitchen sink” approach is often applied—and fails to deliver results—is communication. This is because pretty much every organization out there already has everything they need for impeccable communication to take place, in terms of tools, skills, systems, equipment, etc. There are few, if any, organizations who suffer from poor communication because they lack email, or bulletin boards, or meetings, or announcements. If that were the case, those organizations simply be too incompetent to survive for long. Rather, what is missing in these cases is the intentionality and commitment to ensuring proper communication takes place, and no amount of training, or tools, or systems can make up for that.
Let me give you an example of why commitment is so important. I don’t know you personally but I’m 100% sure there are some aspects of your business where communications take place impeccably. If you can’t think of any, let me help you out. Does your organization routinely pay employees higher wages than they have actually earned? If not, I have some good news for you: Your organization actually has the ability to communicate impeccably! The fact that people are not regularly overpaid is an example of how your organization has figured out to make sure that all the communication that has to take place regarding the hours people worked and the time they missed gets funneled into a process and then gets communicated to various channels, inside or outside the company, and a check is issued and sent or give to the right person at the right time. Wow! How could it be that we are so great at making sure that hundreds if not thousands of pieces of information exchange hands in a timely manner, and yet we are so inadequate in communicating other information to the right people at the right time. The answer is simple. Making sure everybody gets an accurate paycheck on time has been made a priority and everything else where communication is not working has not!
When the commitment is there on the part of the person sharing information and the one who receives it, communication happens regardless of whatever problems and barriers exist. If we deem something to be important, we simply find a way to make it happen. If leadership truly takes on the commitment to share information, they will do everything they can to ensure that it finds its way to the people who need to hear it. Conversely, if those on the receiving end are truly committed to being informed, they will go out of their way to ensure they track down the information that they need. If you want to test this, either stop issuing paychecks for a month or two, or stop showing up to work on the proper day and time. You will definitely be hearing something from someone, and it will definitely be loud and clear!
On the other hand, when the commitment is not there, all we are left with are excuses. On the part of leadership and those who hold the information, this might sound like, “I don’t know who needs what information,” or, “I have communicated but people are not paying attention.” On the receiving end, it could sound like, “I have never heard that before” (even though it was announced in three meetings and posters are plastered on the walls everywhere and emailed several times), or, “They are trying to keep us in the dark.” If there is no commitment to share and receive information, you can speak or listen to someone standing right in front of you, and hardly any communication will actually occur.
Speaking of listening, the problem on the receiving end can be significant, make no mistake. My experience is that if the people have no interest in the information I want to share, I can hang a sign around my neck and walk around and put posters on every wall and, at the end of the day, some folks will still claim that they had not seen or heard my communication! But if the topic is of interest, like the amount of pay increase or the status of an upcoming re-organization, then I can put a little post-it note in one stall in the bathroom with the information on it and be guaranteed that even people who are not at work will have received the information within hours!
Regardless of where there is a lack of commitment, Transformative Leaders take responsibility for both sides. They actively demonstrate their 100% commitment to sharing timely and accurate information, and they do what it takes to generate interest on the receiving end for people to pay attention and process the information. Not only that, they go out of their way to make sure that the message has landed the way that it was intended, and take steps to correct misunderstandings if necessary.
The call to action I would share with you is the following:
1. Identify an area of business or life in which poor communication has adversely affected your results or relationships.
2. Ask yourself why you have been hesitant to communicate impeccably in this area? Are you making it mean something about yourself? Do you simply think that your lack of communication doesn’t or shouldn’t matter? Give yourself permission to let these excuses go.
3. Upgrade your commitment to impeccable communication to 100%, rather than relegating it to only when it is convenient or when you have time. Don’t let past excuses get in your way.
4. Start communicating in a different way than you have in the past. Don’t wait until you figure it all out and can do it perfectly. Start now and perfect it later.
5. Once you get that area under control and in maintenance mode, identify another area and repeat these steps.
If you are not willing to take these steps, you will likely find a way to justify not being in action by thinking, “It can’t be that simple,” or, “We need to tackle the bigger communication issue before anything else.” Please understand that it is, in fact, that simple and focusing on the greater communication issue is will be like trying to boil the ocean. I know how hard it is to face the fact that if you are not communicating, it is because you are not committed to the relationship or the results because I have been there. I am still occasionally faced with the same question in some areas of my life where I have been pretending to be committed. However, unless you face that truth, you will never be able make a sustainable shift in communicating effectively and consistently. Now go fix your commitment problem and watch your communication problem take care of itself!
You can now listen to the new 5-part audio series, “Transforming Your Workplace Experience!" This audio series serves as both a great standalone introduction to culture transformation, as well as a companion to our previously available free culture transformation guide. In the series, I walk you through some applications and examples of the concepts presented in the guide, so that you can more effectively put them into practice and get motivated by the progress you will start making. I know that after learning and applying the concepts and distinctions that I present in the guide and audio series, you will be more qualified than ever to create extraordinary cultures that consistently deliver breakthrough results!
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About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.
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As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!
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