As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the respected professor and author at Claremont Graduate University, commented: In large organizations the dilution of information as it passes up and down the hierarchy, and horizontally across departments, can undermine the effort to focus on common goals.
But perhaps even more jaw-dropping, although communication is a big issue for executives, little attention is seemingly given to this aspect of your development, either pro or con.
Yet companies worldwide experience life-size breakdowns every day in communications that cost organizations hefty sums and can damage an executive’s career.
In today’s diverse, global marketplace, communication is the single most fundamental skill leaders can have. Watson Wyatt’s research has indicated: Effective employee communication is a leading indicator of a company’s financial performance. Additionally, they point out: businesses with effective communication practices are 50+ percent more likely to report employee turnover levels below the industry average.
And when it comes to efficiency, the Computing Technology Industry Association shows 28 percent reported poor communication is the primary cause of failing to deliver a project within its original time frame.
There’s little argument early in your career communication was way easier. After all, you primarily worked in an expertise domain where most of your co-workers were similar to you. All of you had comparable educational backgrounds—even your boss spoke your language! You didn’t need to adapt your innate communication style to be understood.
However, as you move into the more senior ranks of a corporation, and as industries increasingly become more global, things change. Now you’re expected to interact with different divisions around the world, all with widely-ranging backgrounds, professional knowledge, and cultural norms, not to mention differing native tongues.
The fact is that executives who have strong communication skills advance more rapidly and contribute more to organizations than those who don’t possess such skills.
I’ve been producing leadership development programs for years to create awareness in the participant’s mind about what exceptional leadership appears from the participant’s perspective. I always do this exercise: Think of a leader you know and respect. What are the top three characteristics this leader demonstrated with you that made a difference?
Without exception, whether the program was exclusively for men or women or both men and women together, 80 to 90 percent of the responses were at its roots communication skills (some groups were as high as 100%!). That’s how critical communication is to your career.
I can’t count the number of clients I’ve worked with who have believed a communication they’d had was successful only to discover much to their distress—it wasn’t.
How often do you check-out your communication patterns? After one-on-one interactions or meet with a group, do you pause to analyze, “Was it….?”
- Trust Building: Fundamental to any relationship is trust. Were you authentic? Were you sensitive to the needs of others? Were you accountable? Without trust, communication breakdowns are going to occur.
- Receiver Centric: Conversations are incomplete when the focus is only on what you want, think, or are concerned about. Did you speak their preferred style—not merely yours? Did you sincerely ask for feedback?
- Body Language Responsive: It often isn’t the way you’re saying something that is causing the setback. You can craft a message to perfection. However, if your body language isn’t in sync with it, they won’t be receiving your hoped-for communication. What’s your body language saying—or sometimes screaming—without you ever knowing? Equally important, what is theirs saying to you?
- Active Listening: You can’t be an effectual communicator if you’re not a good listener. Forty percent of your salary is credited to listening. Why? Keen listeners garner enormous benefits for themselves and their companies. They’re able to gather more information, reduce conflict, inspire others, increase trust and respect, motivate others, show respect, gain a new perspective, build strong relationships, acquire clarity, build trust, solve problems, better understand issues, and people will like you!!
- Value-Based: Re-examine your values. Are you still communicating with your values in mind, and what you believe to be true? Sometimes our business cultures seep so deep into our thinking that we’re no longer working and treating others in integrity.
- Diversity Sensitive: Each of us wears biased lenses—gender, race, age, national origin, etc.—which have you believing you see reality. Your point of view may so blind you in the eyes of others you appear ignorant to them. Just think of the massive disruptions we’ve experienced when the women’s (#metoo), and the blacks’ #(blacklivesmatter) voices rose in protest. Whole groups shook the population, saying: “No, you do not see accurately!” Is your discernment open to including more than only you!?
Okay. I know this doesn’t scratch the surface of all the possible communication touchpoints. Think of what I’ve offered as priming your pump, so you flow as never before. My desire is that you launch a lifetime habit of perpetual communication improvement as the foundation for garnering a fulfilling career.