No matter what approach or size an organization has, communication is often singled out as an area for organizational improvement on the way to High-Performance. Strangely enough, this deficiency has survived for decades and is more than ever on the agenda of steering committees. This is the paradox:
In an era in which sharing information is easier than ever before, how can effective communication remain such a common business challenge?
Isn’t it surprising that just in a time when it could not be easier to share information, organizations have not made any progress in providing their employees with an effective communication framework? Well, in many ways, it’s not surprising at all.
Communication preferences vary among individuals; some prefer written information, others visual communication, and many others verbal communication.
Interests can also vary; what one collaborator wants or needs to know can be very different from what matters to another one. Similarly, communication still very much depends on individuals, and the absence of any effective communication framework causes each leader to use his or her own «manual» and interpretations. As a consequence, flow, type, and volume of information significantly vary between departments and locations where different employees work.
Effective High-Performance Communication
Despite these variations in communication preferences and practices, High-Performance Organizations have demonstrated that there is a direct route to better organizational communication.
Our research and work with them over the last 17 years has enabled us to decipher effective models and methodologies for their development and we built the four pillars of High-Performance Communication.
Let us briefly have a look at what is behind each of these cornerstones that define the characteristics of High-Performance Organizational Communication:
Consistent - Regular and predictable communication under any circumstances.
Hence, several approaches are available to improve the flow of information across organizations. Some of our favorites for proving greater organizational effectiveness: the C-Suite blog, a weekly newsletter, leadership pills, quarterly town hall meetings, and management breakfasts.
Whatever option is chosen, however, it is most important that leaders carefully consider the ability to meet the commitments they have made before engaging themselves. Otherwise, announcing a new initiative that is not implemented as expected or sustainable for a significant time period will simply break the framework of mutual trust that the communication is supposed to improve.
Such consistency should also include, for example, monitoring and reporting on previously discussed issues for which future actions or developments were planned. Likewise, it is crucial to make sure that any questions arising from organizational communication are properly answered.
Credible - Honest communication of your intentions
Honest communication is key to creating a culture of organizational transparency.
Even when communication runs on a regular basis, if it does not address the interests of the employees or aim at what is really relevant in the day-to-day life of the organization, our teams may feel alienated or even deceived by a communication far from the reality of the organization which would not contribute to its maximum performance possible
Thus, sometimes a topical issue may have an uncertain context or cannot be fully discussed. In such situations, collaborators appreciate being notified of this issue by their leaders, even though much of the information about it is either unknown or cannot be communicated, yet.
An honest statement about what is known, and what can be shared according to a communication plan will help establish honesty as an organizational communication value.
Convenient – Take the opportunity promptly
A further procedure to ensure the organization’s communications to be convenient and relevant is to strive for timeliness, i.e., punctuality. In this respect, we must understand three phases of timeliness:
- Before: What information or prep work should be provided to employees and teams so that they are well positioned to innovate, meet the needs of the future and take advantage of the key opportunities it may provide?
- During: What is coming up that may provoke questions from employees and teams who require more information?
- Next: What recent milestones have been achieved that can be marked, learned or shared to build upon?
Usually, there is enough room for organizations to improve communications in each of these phases, but the «during» phase can be particularly difficult when an issue is brought up that is not entirely clear or causes concern among teams.
Once again, in such cases better communicate about known information in a timely manner than say nothing until every single detail will be covered. Rumours are the worst enemy of high-performance organizational communication.
Collaborative - connecting creativity and talent.
To guarantee that an organization shares relevant information in a consistent, reliable, and timely manner is fundamental to high-performance organizational communication. But that´s not enough.
To create an ecosystem of mutual trust and real commitment, communication must be a conversation that connects hierarchies, divisions of functions, locations, always in two-way directions.
Our experience in developing high-performance global teams has shown that corporate social networks provide the perfect environment. However, in order to facilitate the conversation, the leaders have to play a fundamental part in it by acting as role models, eliminating fear and connecting opportunities.
After this basis is prepared,