Communicating as a Leader

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate.

Kerrie Halmi asked:

While this is a quote from Cool Hand Luke (a very old movie!), it is very appropriate for people in today’s business world. Business communication fails to achieve its intended purpose at least 70% of the time! The reasons varyfor example, many people do not listen well. Of course, all communication is two way. A reason for failed communication that I’ve seen in a lot of my work in Corporate America is that the communicator fails to get their message across.

Let’s say that you are trying to make a culture change. A crucial element of crucial change is communicating the message. One of my clients was making a conscientious effort to shift the culture from one that was only results-oriented to one that is equally results-oriented and behaviorally-oriented. (In other words, if you meet your goals but lose 50% of your people because you were such a jerk doing it, you do not get rewarded. Makes a lot of sense, but it’s amazing how many companies fail to reward that way!) My client had to communicate the change enough. Statistics illustrate that people need to hear a message between 4 to 21 times before it sinks in. They had all of the leaders communicating it in the same way. They took into account that some people comprehend better when they hear something while others understand better when they read something. The ideal way to communicate an important message is to tell people first, and then confirm it in writing. Naturally, they demonstrated the change through action, giving feedback and rewarding the right behavior.

Another important aspect of communicating a message is to understand the importance of tone and body language. Studies have shown that only 7% of your message’s impact comes from your actual words. 38% is from your voice tone and 55% is from your body language.

These statistics have direct implications for the channel you use. Use face-to-face communication whenever possible, as it leaves less room for misinterpretation. While e-mail is very convenient, people overuse it. I challenged one coaching client to completely stop all e-mail communications with a co-worker because they were having so much difficulty communicating. For two weeks, they either met face-to-face or talked by phone when they needed to talk. In only two weeks, their relationship was markedly improved and they saved time because of less miscommunication.

Take responsibility for how you are communicating your messagesdo it enough, be cognizant of the impact of tone and body language and use the correct channels. By becoming more aware of how you are communicating with others, you can mitigate the number of failed communications, which directly helps your business success.


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