Clear, honest, open communication… Everyone strongly stands behind the need for it in a corporate environment. In fact, in any environment. Then, why is it so difficult to do it properly and in a timely fashion?
Communication is a two-way process and it must have a purpose. I suggest taking the following steps in any communication:
1) Determine the purpose of the communication,
2) Identify the best method and environment for it,
3) Prepare the communication,
4) Deliver it,
5) Check results. If necessary, repeat from (1).
Here is an example, where open communication was seriously hampered. And, it is easy to see why.
It was the very first corporate-wide senior managers meeting, where attendance was solid. Many flew in from globally distributed locations because it was made very clear by the top guy that missing these meetings was not an option. “Very nice” I thought to myself. A CEO, who does not just deliver lip service but bites the bullet and brings all his senior staff together regularly.
Before the start of the meeting, there was a lot of hand-shaking, catching-up over morning coffee, old-timers and newcomers mixing and mingling. Anticipation about this meeting was particularly high because of the new direction the company was preparing to take in the coming months.
With this, the meeting time arrived and everyone took their chairs. The noise of the conversations muted a bit but continued. Then, the COO walked into the area in the middle of the U-shaped table and walked over to one particular director. What followed in the next few minutes killed all the chances for having a high-energy, high-participation discussion. The COO yelled and cursed (yes, using profanity) to the director for not doing something he and the president asked the director to do. The president joined the monologue (the director did not open his mouth). After about five minutes, which felt like hours, of yelling and cursing, they were done.
And, this was done to “encourage” sincere and open discussions on mistakes as well as successes.
I can only guess the purpose of the president and the COO in the above example. However, if it was to improve and make progress, it did not happen. I am not arguing that communication should be sugar-coated or distorted to protect the recipient. On the contrary, that would come across as insincere and inaccurate. Instead, use the five steps mentioned above and do it in a systematic manner.
I hope you find this article helpful and useful. I welcome comments and thoughts on this topic.