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Communication is Key (Getting Back to Work 7/3)


My mom often shares a story about one of my first journeys into the world of negotiations. One day, I came home from the first grade to tell her that my teacher would no longer allow me to speak Spanish at home.  To my surprise, my mom agreed and said it was not an issue, except that since my grandmother did all the cooking at home, it would likely result in me not being able to eat. As the story goes, I went to my room and emerged 20 minutes later with my first communication plan. In it, I framed out for my mother how I could satisfy the teacher's request by speaking English in the classroom and with my friends in the neighborhood and using Spanish to communicate with my grandmother so that I could eat. Of course, she immediately supported this mutually beneficial solution and the rest, as they say, is history.

At an early age I learned that communication, listening, and action based on common ground are critical to success. Clarity and communication become even more important in moments of crisis, and ensuring that we continue to communicate on a consistent and regular basis with clarity is more difficult if you have not established clear, transparent protocols that build trust. As we move into the next phase, it now becomes more important to provide regular communication about available resources for employees including information about ongoing working conditions, employee assistance programs, and mental health and financial resources available to your teams so that they understand how to interact with the organization and what support material is available for them in their work, as well as for their families individual needs. In order to do this correctly, we have to establish communication priorities. This is important because solid communication practices help create trust in general confidence and build lasting high impact relationships. This moment also represents an opportunity to educate clients and requires that we establish a plan and maintain an ongoing strategy that prioritizes:

Transparency

Making sure people have confidence in what you share with them is critical. Understanding how to consistently deliver on that promise is a little bit more complex. Oftentimes you have to make decisions for your business with knowledge that is not necessarily available to everyone in your machine and requires the unique ability to filter information in ways that allows for openness without creating exposure for your organization. This is further complicated when the decision process requires extensive changes to your normal operation and, as an organizational leader, you have to make decisions based on what's best for the business versus what may be more meaningful to certain individuals within your corporate structure . For that purpose, it's important that you create an environment of regular and consistent openness that allows for genuine dialogue and trust building so that when you do have to make a decision behind closed doors it is not received as in attack.

According to Blogin – 7 key factors depend on and create transparency in communication:

Trust and loyalty

It feels safe to communicate any type of news in such an upfront environment, which leads to trust among teammates. Encouraging team members to freely express their thoughts or feelings significantly reduces cover-ups, finger-pointing, and responsibility avoidance as the main blockers of great achievements.

Information flow

Open communication and free knowledge sharing ensure fast workflow, which leads to an increase in productivity.

Engagement

Communicating updates to your teammates makes them feel competent and involved. Emboldened by being valued and worth sharing information with, your peers get more inclined toward commitment.

Solutions

Transparent communication helps in solving problems quickly. When issues are transparently highlighted, ideas for a solution are openly shared. Embracing this habit increases the chance of getting things done faster.

Alignment

Transparency ensures that everyone gets on the same page. Open communication prevents misunderstandings and clears up existing ones.

Strengthening Relationships

Being open and honest makes you available to get approached decision-making. People are prone to open up and trust you if you make yourself accessible. Eventually, the outcome is better and more strong relationships with your peers.

No Surprises

When it comes to the workplace, no one likes surprises. Transparent communication in teams decreases the risk of not processing vital information and updates, which can affect the overall productivity and final results.

Clarity in Messaging

Organizational Leaders “must make corporate messaging a strategic priority across the organization and fully buy into the fact that the story directly impacts the financial performance of the business” (O'Gara 1). In addition, the better prepared we are in providing direct and clear communication, the more effective that messaging is in being passed on correctly, delivering responses that are directly being requested, and ensuring that others are able to make decisions leadership expects to be followed through on.

Over-communicate in Crises Response Windows

The old adage that “silence is golden” does not apply when it comes to responding to or managing crises. Creating a steady drumbeat that reiterates messaging so that everyone has a clear view of what is happening, where leadership is heading and what should be expected next is valuable as you deal with crises moments. This requires sharing the source of information (e.g., according to authorities, our legal counsel, etc.), providing clear position statements (e.g., we are working with, reviewing, have deployed teams, etc.) and setting expectations (we will provide an update on, our teams are formulating info and we expect to be able to share results on, we have no further information and anticipate we will be able to share after, etc.).

Over-communicating circumstances and actions allows you, as an organization, to take control, set the narrative, create buy-in opportunities for team members, and limit speculation about you or your organization's role and response going forward.

Communicate Across all Levels of the Organization

Strong communication strategies focus on listening intentionally. You, as a leader, cannot understand issues if you do not take the time needed to hear from internal and external partners, other leaders and your team. Creating space that is safe for feedback loops, reactions and suggestions regarding ongoing issues is paramount if you want to get the outcomes right. Ensuring you have moments that allow you to directly engage with team members, hear from them (collectively and one-on-one) will bring you closer to the truth about impacts happening across your machine and generate significant value as trust builds and people feel comfortable not only sharing opinions but providing solutions.

As you emerge from the multi-tiered issues that have led to pandemic planning and real sensitive discussions about how business will support and interact with communities of all types, it becomes important to identify priorities and create inclusive language that is clear and concise on where you are and how you expect employees, clients, and partners to engage with you and your teams. If you get the message or the communication plan wrong, you may end up missing out on your grandma’s supper for an extended period of time.

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