What can lean leaders learn from employee communication professionals?
Try these five tips. They're based on a recent leadership communications study of employee communication professionals, which was sponsored by two high-tech companies and conducted by Liz Guthridge, The LEAN Communicator(tm) and managing consultant of Connect Consulting Group.
1) Acknowledge that communication is a critical part of your job. You must communicate. Even if you're quiet, your silence and your actions will send messages.
2) Recognize that information overload is a significant barrier to effective communications. So be mindful about what you say and do to ensure you're sending compelling messages. You want to cut through the clutter and support your strategic intent and actions. Spare the air on non-mission-critical issues.
3) Make an effort to meet face-to-face regularly. Face-to-face communicationâ€”even if by telephone or webinarâ€”continues to be effective. It allows people to hear you talk. It should also give them an opportunity to ask questions, seek clarification and share opinions with you. In other words, to ensure your face-to-face communication is effective, make it two-way.
4) Be accountable by measuring, adjusting and reassessing, which should come naturally to lean practitioners. (As an aside, in the survey more than a third of the communication professionals said they aren't doing anything to hold their leaders accountable for communicating with employees, yet a vast majority said in both quantitative and qualitative questions that accountability was important.)
For example, you can measure in the moment, right after you meet with your team members or with a group of employees either in person or virtually. If you're checking in with just a few people, ask open-ended questions, such as “What did you think?” and “What do you think we should do differently next time?”
For larger groups, use a formal measurement tool such as a short online or even paper pulse check. Ask questions about the content of what you said, the quality of the discussion and the logistics, such as the room setup and the acoustics.
You also can assess the perceived trustworthiness of yourself and other leaders. To do this, ask questions such as:
- Leader X demonstrated the same values he/she spoke about.
- Leader X showed that he/she was listening to us.
- Leader X does what he/she says he's going to do.
5) Encourage people to speak truth to power, which is an old Quaker phrase. In an organizational context, it refers to making it safe and comfortable for individuals, especially those in less powerful positions, to speak up. This ranges from raising issues, questioning authority, and blowing the whistle on potentially problematic behaviors or actions. Depending on the organization's culture, it may not be enough to say you want to hear from people; you also may need to show them that they won't experience any repercussions if they challenge you and other leaders. By getting people to speak up and out, you get useful unfiltered information that helps you act and address key issues.
All five of these tips are basics for good communications. Yet just because we know the basics doesn't mean we practice them. Keep in mind the road to good intentions is paved with hell, especially when it comes to good communications.
The full report as well as related communication tools are available are available here.
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