Employers Listen Up: Communication is like cash…
….you can never have enough. This was told to me recently by an executive and nothing could be truer, especially right now. In times of turmoil and trouble the best thing employers can do is to communicate. Athletic coaches know it. That is why sports have timeouts. Timeouts give the coach a chance to try and quarantine the noise, sit the team down for a few seconds or minutes in an effort to regroup. Although sports’ timeouts are limited, they are used strategically and as such are thought of as precious. But in business, we tend to miss all the signs signaling a need for a timeout. The momentum changes but we let it get past us before we start communicating. Some of the ways companies can spend some of that communication currency are offered below:
Get transparent. Everything you say or do is going to get written or talked about outside of the company anyway so you might as well get as transparent as you can with your people and team. That means communication before and after decisions with insight as to “why” they occurred. Do this early and often.
Act like a start-up. Start-ups communicate all the time with their teams as it’s a means of survival Most people who have ever worked in a start-up will affectionately talk about the weekly all-hands meetings, the TGIFs where everyone lets their hair down and the leaders take Q&A on anything. As we get bigger and busier we forget about how powerful those times can be. Not only do they bring continuous communication to the organization, they give a chance for leaders to be human and approachable. If small all-hands are impractical due to size and geographic diversity, empower local managers to handle or use simple audio and video technologies.
Walk and talk. Ad-hoc, frequent communication where you are accessible is great. I once worked with a CEO who was famous for plopping down in someone’s cubicle and within a few minutes gathered a crowd and would hold an impromptu town-hall like meeting. These 30-minute gatherings became part of his legend. And when things were tough everyone believed him, because they knew him and they knew his voice first-hand.
Don’t forget the frontline. Studies consistently show that the most credible person in the company is your first-line Manager. Yet somehow we always end up thinking that the message from the top will be enough and we don’t ensure that the frontline manager is saying the same thing and is reinforcing the communication. If there is anyone who should be on constant conversation and be the most in the know it is the frontline supervisor. Don’t forget them. And, there is nothing more powerful than in one of those All-Hands meetings to have a frontline manager get up and tell the story and tell why the change, or the objective or whatever it is, is important to them. They are where the work gets done and they can make stuff happen.
What things has your company or boss done to improve communication within the workplace? Share here what’s worked well or what you think CEOs and managers should avoid.