“It makes little difference how many university courses or degrees a person may own. If he cannot use words to move an idea from one point to another, his education is incomplete.” Norman Cousins, world peace advocate
If an army marches on their stomachs, then surely an organisation marches on good communication. Communication is the area where most problems are experienced in a business. An organisation requires a communication plan, and an individual should have a communication component of his brand plan.
The principles of communication lie in: A for accuracy, B for brevity and C for clarity – it is essential that information is accurate, brief and clearly understood. So often we say one thing and our audience hears and understands another. Many of my experience originate from my years in PR when it was my role to translate the leader’s vision into a palatable, easily-to-understand process for the staff and public. Problems in an organisation can often be traced back to poor communication. It is vital that optimum internal communication is cemented before communicating with a public audience.
We need to acknowledge that of all the vast changes in the workplace, communication in particular has evolved drastically. It is not only due to technological advances, but because the next wave of leaders think and therefore communicate differently from the old guard. It is longer “what I want to say”, but “what do you need to hear”. In our country we have 11 official languages. Allow me to suggest that there are a few other languages which need to be raised here – important languages like the languages of silence, discretion, listening, affirmation and appreciation.
Communication should be an inside out approach, getting communication in the organisation to optimum levels before managing external communication. So much information in the workplace is shared informally (at the coffee station, in the lift and at the smoking spot) that is often inaccurate. If efficient formal structures were in place and communication from the leader was timeous and transparent, rumours and insecurity would be decreased. Every audit we have ever done in a company before instituting a performance management model has exposed inefficient communication being a major cause of negative issues. Sometimes small changes like starting a conversation by using someone’s name or using “we” more than “I” can improve your personal communication style.
QUIET LANGUAGES – SILENCE, DISCRETION AND LISTENING
Sometimes the most powerful act of communication can be silence – saying absolutely nothing at all, nodding your head, putting your hand on a colleague’s arm or merely smiling. Allowing for a pause allows for someone to understand and process what you are saying, and as we all process at different speeds, it is vital to allow for the pause.
Negate noise pollution and enjoy the opportunity of listening to your inner voice, your intuition. It is a tool that needs to be finely tuned so that you can use it to best advantage. Your inner voice builds up a vocabulary that allows you to read between the lines. Sometimes you will know what a situation needs by listening to your gut. Use your instinct, trust it and you will then use it well.
What is confidentiality? What goes on tour needs to stay on tour. Learn to keep your own counsel unless you are discussing a matter of confidentiality with someone you really trust. Check facts and figures before stating them to anyone. Respect confidential information when it is shared with you. Know that there is a time and place for discussing business – and crowded coffee shops are not the spots to be sharing information with everyone looking and listening in.
Leaders need to listen to the ideas of others. Listening is an art, a quality that is sometimes taken for granted. Someone may hear what you are saying, but are they really listening and absorbing? We hear and interpret individually, so take the time to check that you have been understood. Listening demonstrates respect. If you do not listen, your followers will find someone else to listen to, show respect to and to believe in them. A leader always makes time to listen because learning is always greater when you listen.
Jenny Handley is a brand, high performance and leadership specialist who offers individual consultations and team workshops. For information on Jenny’s books and courses visit www.jennyhandley.co.za. Follow Jenny on Twitter: Jenny_Handley and Facebook: Jenny Handley Performance Management.
Published December 2014