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When I tell people that I work in communications, it is often assumed that my discipline is a non-technical skill. Look no further than every Hallmark Holiday movie plot to prove my point. A disproportionate number of female protagonists in these Christmas-themed love stories play a role in the communications: there’s the reporter who was sent to cover a vacation at a foreign castle; the dating blogger who takes the risk of love; the high-level marketing manager who finds himself stranded in a small town in Ohio; the TV presenter who admits she hates Christmas on the air (gasps!); and the two rival broadcasters who (spoiler alert) realize they’re soul mates.
Culturally, we don’t exactly portray a crafty profile of communication professionals.
But this portrayal of communications as a discipline does business leaders a disservice, especially when it comes to internal communications. In reality, every mistake in business stems from a failure in communication. We use communication to structure productive meetings, build the culture that informs our brands, strengthen organizational effectiveness, foster inclusion and belonging, increase employee engagement, inspire teams, drive projects forward, sell our products and services, build trust, solve problems, make informed decisions, develop our teams and teach important skills.
Related: The 4 signs that Anemic Communications is undermining the vitality of your business
With so much at stake, it’s amazing that organizations don’t spend more time and resources promoting these crucial skills. 60% of organizations do not have a long-term internal communication strategy, and over 70% of employees realize the pitfalls: they fear missing out on organizational news and do not understand the company’s strategy. This makes it difficult for employees to realize their organizational impact or participate meaningfully in the strategy.
Fortunately, communication skills are easy to acquire with some intention. Here is where you could start.
Build a thoughtful communication infrastructure
Related: 5 management rules to be a thoughtful and effective leader
When business leaders think about defining how teams communicate, the typical approach is to assess the digital communication platforms available. For example, should your business adopt Microsoft Teams or Slack? Will you be using Mailchimp for email or Dotdigital communications? Often a decision about our internal communications infrastructure comes down to functionality and cost without paying too much attention to how the communications channels will work for your business in practice.
A better approach is to align first with HR and department managers to understand the different communication channels needed to fit the makeup and culture of your employees and the purpose of each. respective channels. Do you intend for project collaboration to be via chat? On video? By email? What formats will you use for sensitive topics? When you are intentional about channels and their goals, you define communication processes in your business that facilitate clarity, consistency, and organizational effectiveness, which has the added benefit of fostering trust.
Be intentional about your communication processes and standards
Having an explicit communication policy is a great way to set clear expectations. The communications policy should cover everything from social media best practices to organizing results-oriented presentations and meetings.
It is also important to consider the communication standards that you want to put in place in your business. Can team members be off camera during video chat? Are there certain acceptable communication formats and models for communicating with clients? Are there things that are absolutely not being said, like having zero tolerance for communicating bias? It might sound like common sense, but drawing clear lines around what is tolerated and what is not will communicate that you value fairness and inclusion while setting boundaries that will keep everyone safe.
Adopt powerful conversations
Related: Difficult conversations can drive business innovation
When you approach every communication with intention, every conversation becomes an opportunity to achieve a desired outcome. In Powerful conversations by Phil Harkins, Harkins suggests a model that I have found to be extremely effective in gaining buy-in on new projects, avoiding costly communication errors, solving problems, fostering trust, and getting things done that matter.
Harkins suggests a 4-step process for positive conversation results: “what’s up, what’s going on, what’s possible and let’s go”. In short, its steps allow leaders to establish emotional common ground around a program, foster understanding of the situation through fact-finding, discuss possibilities, and assign tasks and responsibilities. .
This last step, assigning deliverables, may seem obvious, but it is crucial in moving projects forward and is often missing from the traditional meeting structure.
When it comes to fostering a healthy and productive corporate culture, there is no more powerful way than effective communication. Putting in place a conscious infrastructure and clear expectations will set a precedent for results-oriented conversations that build trust, solve problems and invite innovation.