Leaders know that communication is one of their key roles. In fact, whenever I work with a leadership team or group, the subject of communication always comes up. Some people want to know how to communicate more effectively. Others want to know why employees don’t seem to hear what they are saying when they do communicate.
In those very same organizations, employees wish the leaders would communicate more often or more clearly. They often feel in the dark about decisions, plans and future direction. That becomes an even bigger problem when employees work virtually.
In defense of the leaders, most often they do communicate—just not effectively. It’s pretty simple: If employees are not clear about what they have read or heard, your communication is not effective.
One of the areas where the gap is widest is in communicating decisions. Leaders make decisions but they fail to communicate them in a way that is clear to their employees. Ensure that doesn’t happen to you by answering these seven questions before you communicate decisions to your staff:
- What are the key points or major messages you want to share when communicating the decision? Outline these points ahead of time. If each member of a leadership team is communicating individually, creating a common list of key messages is even more important. What do you really need to communicate about each decision?
- How is this decision connected to or in alignment with our strategies, vision, mission and values? You (hopefully) have made decisions taking your strategies, mission, vision and values in mind. Because you understand the strategies so clearly, those connections may seem obvious to you. They won’t necessarily be as obvious to your audience. Help them see the relevance of this decision to the long-term picture of the organization.
- Have we answered the “why?” to this decision? People need to understand why. Too often leaders describe the what but never address the why. Knowing the reason behind a decision helps people hear, understand and accept it.
- Who will provide the communication? Is one executive making the announcement or sending the email to everyone within the organization? Is each individual manager sharing the message with their groups separately? Is there some combination of both? Purposely decide who will be communicating the message.
- How will it be communicated ? The how—email, team meeting, voice mail, newsletter and so on—will vary given the situation and locations of your employees. Consider the message, its implications and the audience before automatically determining the approach or doing what you always do.
- When will it be communicated? Chances are the sooner the better. Even if you don’t have complete information, tell people what you do know as soon as possible. If communicating separately, agree on when the communication will be completed to make sure some pockets of the organization don’t have the information far ahead of others.
- What will be the process to check for understanding? Communication is a two-way process. A complete communication plan makes sure that people have gotten the message and that they understand it. To be most successful, you need to create some sort of feedback mechanism or dialogue. In short, an email or memo may not be enough to confirm that everyone fully understands what to do next..
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