By Tom Borg
OWLS Senior Facilitator
Let’s talk about the communication that takes place between you, your managers and your employees. One of the most difficult and costly issues in companies and organizations today, is the lack of clear communication.
What is so dangerous about poor communication is that it costs your company an exorbitant amount of money. It is like a thief going into your bank account and stealing funds. This crime of poor communication is committed in broad daylight with eyewitnesses present and it is repeated over and over again.
It has been reported that miscommunication within a company can cost anywhere between 25-40% of its annual budget. No matter how you look at it, the cost of miscommunication within your operation is expensive, extremely expensive.
Think about the last major miscommunication in your organization. How much did it cost? Usually things like re-work, additional wages, upset customers, lost orders, not to mention raging tempers can add up to a hefty financial and emotional amount. It’s estimated that 14% of each workweek is wasted as a result of poor communication. As a small business owner, you want to reduce the amount of miscommunication as much as possible.
When it comes to your managers’ and employees’ ability to communicate with each other, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, where would your rate your team’s overall score?
Rate your communication levels now.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Poor Average Good Excellent
If you are somewhere between a 5 and a 6 you are average. Now don’t go thinking just because you are average that it’s OK and things will be fine. As a matter of fact it can be disastrous.
I remember a company I was working with had severe challenges when it came to honest and open communication between department heads. It seemed that most of the time in this organization, there were two types of communication going on. One type was nodding with polite agreement when the boss was doing the talking in meetings and one-on-one situations.
The other type was guarded and at times laced with a lot of finger pointing and anger. This type of exchange was destructive and contributed to mistrust and uncooperative efforts between departments. Ultimately in the end, customers were the ones that suffered and the company lost money.
So what can you do about reducing the amount of miscommunication in your business? Plenty. Here are three strategies to take that will create a more communicative and trusting work place.
First, each person needs to take responsibility for communicating effectively.
Each member of your team including yourself needs to stop pointing the finger at someone else for communication mistakes.
One way to approach this is to hold a meeting and to ask your team for suggestions on how you can communicate better to them. Go around the table until everyone has had a chance to give you feedback on what they would like to see you change or do differently. Take notes and prioritize action items
The next strategy you can implement is to have the person to your right ask for the same feedback from their team members as well as yourself. Go around the table until everyone has had a chance to give that person some suggestions on what they would like to see that person change or do differently. Each person being given the feedback should also take notes and prioritize action items.
With one company I was working with, it became clear that the manager of one department was timid about walking into the owner’s office and communicating his needs and concerns.
Later in the individual coaching sessions with the owner and the manager, I learned that the owner was concerned about this, and even though he had requested the manager come to his office and check in from time to time, the manager didn’t. Why was he reluctant? Because his behavioral style was introverted, and he lacked the confidence to do it effectively.
Finally, after working with both the manager and the business owner separately and together, it finally started to click. Eventually the manager realized the importance of meeting with the owner on a regular basis, but we needed to take him one step further. He had to overcome his procrastination about meeting with the owner. To do this I taught him a technique to help him overcome his fear of approaching and communicating with his boss.
Here is what he learned to do. When it came to performing in his position, I taught him to write down each concern that he had and some possible solutions he thought could resolve the issue. He then would schedule a time to meet with the owner and together they would decide what the best course of action would be to solve those specific concerns.
It worked extremely well. The manager had a plan that allowed him to put into action his recommendations with the benefit of the owner’s input, and the owner had a way of regularly communicating with his manager.
A third strategy you can try is what Ken Blanchard calls “management by walking around.” This is to go to the actual offices or work places where your people perform their duties.
Many small business leaders, have a bad habit of staying in their office until something goes wrong.
A better approach is to make it a practice to regularly visit with, and get to know, the people in your organization.
You will usually find that people will be more apt to communicate with you more honestly and openly. As a result, it became a better place to work for everyone, not too mention a much more profitable business.
So to summarize, when it comes to building communication and trust within your business:
1. Ask your team for suggestions on how you can communicate better with each one of them.
2. Have each person in your organization identify how they can improve the way they communicate to others. As a business owner, communicate to them how important this is and give them permission to make the time to communicate properly.
3. Create a structure where it is possible to regularly schedule time for discussing projects and issues that invariably will come up. This will help prevent many problems from happening or at least minimize them.
4. Make it a point to get out of your office and make rounds throughout your company. Visit work sites where your crews are working. Ask good questions and listen to the answers.
When you act on these recommendations, you will be well on your way to building a profitable company with powerful communication and high levels of trust.