“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” (American business speaker Brian Tracy)
Successful communication can be the difference between a profitable business and a failing one. Leaders who are unable to get across the needs of the company to their employees will very quickly close its doors. Likewise, people who are effectively able to communicate the things they need to be done will find their reward in a harmonious team and profitable enterprise.
This article is for those people who believe themselves to be among the latter. Those who have managed to traverse the minefield of communication and who find themselves surrounded by a largely effective team. In this position, it is possible you may still be making communication errors that are chipping away at your profitability and leading to a team that isn’t as effective as it possibly could be. They are common errors that anyone could make and everyone has seen at some point, but they definitely impact the bottom line. Here is how to cut them out and take your company to a brand-new level.
Avoid these communication errors
- Not answering the question
No matter how well you explain things, being a leader sometimes requires you to answer follow-up questions from your team. While most of the time these questions are simple enough to answer, there may be occasions in which a manager may not be able to answer the question. Perhaps they don’t know the answer or simply didn’t take time to understand the question or misunderstood the question.
When it comes to the effectiveness of your employee who is asking the question though, purposefully avoiding a response is as bad as mistakenly answering it incorrectly or ambiguously.
For example, imagine your employee has sent you an email asking, “Did you say you wanted that report today, or next week?”
A distracted communicator may see the first half of the message and rush to reply “Absolutely” or “Yes.” This ambiguous reply now wastes time and further confuses the employee. Does this mean the deadline has been pushed out or that it’s still due today? The employee may then be forced to follow up, or worse, assume an extension has been granted when it has not. Either situation wastes that employee’s time and can even lose a client.
Avoid this simple error by ensuring you automatically read the full email and understand it before responding. Then make sure you make it clear which answer is to which question. Don’t assume the employee will be able to infer what is meant each step of the way.
- Too much information
There is a very clear difference between providing your employee with the context and information they need to do their jobs and live up to expectations and giving them too much information. Giving an order with the right amount of information and the proper context will save time and make that employee better at their job.
This error creeps in due to the manager’s assumption either that the employee needs more information than they do, or that extra information will help them to contextualize and make their own decisions. In the worst-case scenarios, it comes from the manager themselves not being sure what information the employee needs and simply giving them everything in the hope that this may cover it.
The problem here is that having too much information can lead to time-wasting and analysis paralysis.
For example, why share all the product information with your sales rep, when at the end of the day there are only three key points that separate your product from the competition and help to make the sale? Sending your sales reps a manual and expecting them to work out for themselves what aspects of your product will help them sell it to clients is as unhelpful as giving them no information at all. The time they waste reading the manual could rather be spent perfecting their sales techniques or working on their pitch documents.
This also extends to bombarding your employees with opinions or reasoning that they may not need. Sometimes, in order to err on the side of caution, or to seem smarter than they need to be, managers can lean towards being verbose. As a manager you should avoid sending long paragraphs or speeches packed with thoughts, reasoning and explanations when a simple email explaining what needs to be done will remove wasted time and confusion.
At the end of the day, conciseness is the key to good communication. Managers who impart all the necessary information and no more will find their teams perform more effectively and more profitably.
- Too little context
Just as bad as too much information is when managers share information assuming the context is known by everyone in the organisation. Context gives meaning to orders and conversation in general, and not including it puts the person at the receiving end of the communication at a disadvantage. Without the proper context, they may think they have been left out of the loop or have forgotten something important and may never bring it up, instead choosing to muddle through and therefore doing a worse job.
To avoid all this, communication should give a quick background to the new information, a short description of the client and what they like and how they like it to be done and an explanation for why any deadlines have been set. Once people understand why they are doing something and how it should be done and by when, they are much more likely to deliver on the task itself in the way you want it to be done.
- Emotional communications
There are few places where emotional emails or other communications (WhatsApp or Teams messages and the like) are wanted, and the workplace is not one. Corporate culture places a lot of constraints on human behaviour and as such an emotional communication is definitely going to be not only career limiting, but also cause a lot of discomfort to all who are unlucky enough to be tagged in.
The problem with emotional communications is that they cause so much discomfort that the issues they are discussing can often become more difficult to deal with. The delays in resolving these issues will lead to poor performance and an uncomfortable work environment.
These kinds of constraints can also lead to the other kind of bad communication – passive-aggressive emails and communiques. In many cases these cause hurt feelings and divide teams without resolving issues because they claim not to be calling attention to any issue to begin with.
This issue is fixed by encouraging an open and honest communication policy in your business. Allowing people to speak their minds respectfully and then genuinely listening allows people who have noticed problems to bring them to your attention and for those problems to be resolved. Do not let them linger in the shadow of hurt feelings.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.