This topic is second only to trust in importance for leaders. Why? Communication increases knowledge, builds confidence, trust, commitment, and increases productivity. It creates meaning. It’s the only way groups can become aligned behind vision, mission and goals. Yet it typically shows up on surveys as “Needs Improvement.”
We don’t communicate well with each other (which is no surprise), and there are many reasons why. Our ability to communicate is affected by our styles, tone, body language, filters, barriers, and our inability to listen. Filters and barriers include ego, perceptions, assumptions, language, status, education, history, stereotypes, and jargon. The result is that communication can stop, or be severely limited.
Dr. Jack Gibb in his book, “Trust, a New View of Personal and Organizational Development,” lists six behaviors that stop communication. They are judging, superiority, certainty, controlling, manipulation, and indifference. It’s not that we deliberately behave this way. It’s often done without thinking. What do they sound like?
-Judging: “You are wrong”
-Superiority: “I’m better, I know more”
-Certainty: “My mind is made up”
-Controlling: “Let me tell you how to do it”
-Manipulation: “If I don’t tell them the whole story I can get them to agree with me” (hidden motives)
-Indifference: “I have better things to do”
In this environment the group loses energy, becomes reluctant to offer ideas, becomes distrustful, won’t ask questions, will learn not to disagree, and will learn not to volunteer.
What can leaders do to encourage communication? Dr. Gibb lists six communication encouraging behaviors; description, equality, openness, problem-orientation, positive intent, and empathy. These are opposites of communication stopping behaviors. What do they sound like?
-Description: “I see it this way, how do you see it?”
-Equality: “We are in this together”
-Openness: “Let’s hear your ideas”
-Problem orientation: “You know the problem, and you know how to fix it”
-Positive intent: “What are we trying to accomplish?”
-Empathy: “I appreciate your concern and sense your frustration”
The result of these encouraging behaviors is a willingness to share ideas, ownership of difficulties and mistakes, positive attitude, willingness to fulfill requests, and problem-solving.
Researchers have correlated satisfaction (satisfaction with self, job, peers, management, and organizations), and communication, with job performance. During my time in HR I observed the tremendous benefits of open communication in my businesses and as a manager.