Your Communication Systems get your people the information they need.
Every organization we’ve ever worked with (and probably haven’t worked with) struggles with communication - and everyone knows it. However, when I ask people what is wrong with their communication, they often have trouble putting it into words. Some people say they need more communication. Do you really want more emails? More meetings? Others say they want clearer communication. Managers ask “should I speak slower or louder?”
Whenever we are dealing with passing information between two or more human beings, there will always be challenges. Sometimes the “sender” isn’t clear. Sometimes the “receiver” doesn’t understand. People can hear the exact same message and interpret it very different ways. Effective communication is really a two-way process; It’s an exchange of ideas with messages and feedback. Really effective communication can only happen when all parties start by knowing they might be wrong.
There many ways that communication fails within organizations. These failures waste time, resources, and foster misalignment that can tear teams apart. Fortunately, there are systems that every organization can utilize to improve communication.
Communication Styles Training
As I’ve already pointed out - people are complex. This creates a lot of natural challenges for communication. Helping people understand the nature of effective communication and how different people have different natural styles of communication can make a huge impact on teams and how they work together. Effective teams need to learn how to become effective communicators.
Most people don’t like meetings. If you don’t like them, you probably aren’t doing them right. Meetings should be an open exchange of ideas. They should be engaging and even energizing. Don’t allow yourself to be stuck in exhausting, unproductive meetings. This does not mean you shouldn't have meetings, but that your meetings need to be effective and productive.
Every great organization has a strong meeting cadence where communication systematically happens. A meeting cadence becomes a “place” for dialogue and collaboration. Without this cadence, your communication will happen organically through thousands of inefficient micro meetings held throughout the day, creating noise and constant “you got a second?” interruptions. If your organization is siloed between departments, the a common cause is lacking a “place” for collaboration to occur between the departments.
Core Team & STEP Teams
A lot of information comes in the form of ideas. Ideas create pressure inside of an organization. When the ideas are not utilized, the pressure builds, creating frustration and disengagement. On the other hand, when ideas are vetted and improved upon in a collaborative environment, this pressure can work like a hydraulic system that powers your organization, making you more efficient and effective while also engaging your people.
A Core Team is a cross-functional team that meets once a month to collect, vet, prioritize, launch, and track ideas within the organization. The Core Team launches STEP Teams to pursue the idea either by learning something or doing something (they take a “step” forward). The STEP team engages representatives of key stakeholders needed for the idea to really take hold in the organization.
This process creates a change machine that engages your team in new ways to leverage the full knowledge and experience within your organization to make things better.
Communication Policy & Standards
With all the different forms of communication available, we might expect communication to be effective. However, many organizations choke on all the noise created from phone calls, video calls, emails, text messages, instant messages, meetings, and drop-ins. We communicate all day long and information is often lost. I get well over 100 emails a day. It’s no wonder stuff gets lost or dropped from time to time.
Many organizations work to create a standard or expectation about how different types of communications are utilized. This doesn’t have to be a hard rule, but more like a guide. For example, at People Centric, we utilize text messages mainly for communication that requires immediate attention. We also utilize a group text for more casual team conversations (like sharing pictures from our travels). Our weekly meetings are used to plan for client interactions, and emails are reserved for things that don’t require immediate attention. We also utilize OneNote and Trello as places where we can record information that might need to be referenced by the team. This standard allows our team to communicate much more effectively.
For a better idea of how these systems work together, check out our High Performance Culture page or download our eBook on the impact of a High Performance Culture. In the coming weeks, we will be addressing Management, Process, and Strategy in more detail.
As part of a series of articles, I am creating an overview of the five sets of systems within our Cultural Framework. This Framework helps you keep a high-level perspective on how systems can work together to help you drive a culture that both empowers and aligns your team. The five sets of systems in our Framework include People, Communication, Management, Process, and Strategy. Your Communication Systems get your people the information they need.