Earlier this month I hosted a workshop with Neil Tomalin to discuss the importance of communication inside organisations. As a roundtable discussion we wanted to speak to those who don’t work in a communications function to help them explore their own communication style, understand a bit more about internal communication and its significance in the workplace and draw on some of Neil’s research into authenticity.
What makes someone a good communicator?
We kicked off the breakfast session exploring the traits of a good or bad communicator. Worryingly, it was hard for anyone to give an example of someone who is the best in their business – which just reaffirmed the need for the workshop!
The list from the group was:
- Thought about the audience
- Limits emails so that they have purpose
- Responds timely
- Uses a mix of methods (phone, face to face etc)
- Brings a human element to it – not afraid to not be perfect
- Influencing skills
- Authentic without spin – honest even in uncertainty
It was clear that there are some leaders or people in teams who are naturally good communicators, but because this isn’t consistent across the business it can make others look even worse. This part of the discussion cements my view that all leaders and line managers should have a communications coach and/or communication training.
Language is more important than ever
When it comes to the worst communicators, the use of jargon was a big factor. People don’t want to say they don’t understand something and the language of the business can often be riddled with acronyms or phrases. We know that theory suggests only 7% of total communication is language, 38% is tone and 55% is body language. Today, we use digital communication over most other forms and as a result, the words we use are becoming more and more important – don’t get sucked into the acronyms and the jargon in the workplace – remember there are new people starting all the time who would be lost without clear, plain English.
We are all responsible for communicating effectively
We based the conversation around my definition of internal communication which is: Everything that gets said and shared inside an organisation. As a function, its role is to curate, enable and advise on best practise for organisations to communicate effectively, efficiently and in an engaging way.
What can often happen is an assumption that someone is responsible when in fact, no one is. We all need to take responsibility as individuals and/or leaders to look at how we communicate. We need to explore how we ensure what we say is received in the way we intended – how often do we check that what has been said has been understood?
Being authentic will build trust – be adaptable but own your style
Neil’s research into authenticity is a great insight into how we behave in meetings. Many in the room shared examples of how they adapt depending on the nature of the meeting or the people involved. This is very common and no bad thing, but my counsel would be to ensure that your consistent with some elements. People need to know ‘who’ is coming to the meeting – if you’re always different, people won’t get a sense of who you are and your ability to influence and gain trust will be lost.
Our five next steps
- No organisation recognised good communication with an annual award. What would be the impact if a simple measure like this was introduced into your organisation? Would it mean you could identify positive role models more easily?
- Create your own definition or share the one we discussed and explore what this means for your team.
- Create an open conversation by asking your boss, peers and team this question: what type of working relationship would you like to have with me?
- Create your own ‘feedback loop’ to assess the effectiveness of your communication style. Do this simply by asking work colleagues about the timeliness, clarity and appropriate nature of the messages you send.
- Use the 5-character card to improve your observation skills at meetings. Are you a mouse, cat, dog, owl or shark? What roles are your colleagues assuming? To an impartial observer, what messages do the way you run meetings deliver about your company culture?
This was the first in what we hope will turn into a series of conversations about the importance of communication in the workplace. With many organisations not investing in an internal communications function (although the trend is that this is improving) we are keen to help operations directors, finance directors, managing directors and others understand how important their communication style is and how it can impact business performance.
If you’d like us to run a dedicated workshop in your office just get in touch and we can create something bespoke for your team: firstname.lastname@example.org