Fed up with poor communication in your business? Unsure what to do to get it right?
You could benefit from hiring external expertise. This, combined with your commitment to change things, may be the recipe you’re looking for.
But what barriers are there to building a partnership for success? This is a question that you share with many other business leaders.
Having worked with many businesses to help improve their communication over the years, these are the top five problems that I find get in the way. Avoid them if you’re serious about success.
(1) Assuming you can get on with business as usual
Okay, so you’ve got the external guys in. That doesn’t mean you can chuck responsibility for improving communication over to them and then get on with doing the same things you always do. This is your organisation; its your communication, and your people.
I find that the less visible my presence the more successful the change will be. I see my role is to add value in the background, making sure the organisation’s leaders are clearly leading the change. The more the leaders are visibly leading the more people across the organisation believe their leaders are serious.
If you leave it up to the external folks, things won’t change because the people you lead will follow your example and get on with business as usual too.
(2) Failing to set clear goals and measures
You know what? I love to work with organisations that really hold me to account for getting results and that expect the work I do with them to show measurable progress.
That way everyone can see the value I – and my colleagues – add. It's far more rewarding for all involved.
And yet, it’s amazing how many organisations do no more than pay lip service to setting clear goals and measures. That’s a big mistake.
Goals and measures aren’t simply to inform you at the end of the project and make sure that your investment has been worthwhile. They are an invaluable way to keep everyone on track during the project as well, so making a guaranteed result far more likely.
(3) Expecting miracles
Changing communication in an organisation isn’t simply about putting in a few new processes and pressing the ‘Go’ button. It inevitably means changing a raft of deeply embedded cultural habits and norms, too.
In one organisation I worked with – this was in the microelectronics sector – the senior management team wanted their middle managers and supervisors to communicate better with their direct reports. Achieving this meant fixing all kinds of other problems first.
These began right from the top. The General Manager on the site regularly changed his mind about what he wanted and was vague in sharing what was on his mind. This left senior managers second guessing him and as a result were unclear in their communications with direct reports.
In turn, direct reports were unsure what they were expected to do or communicate, and so simply ignored everything that was happening and did their own thing.
Unravelling all of this and replacing unproductive behaviours with healthier habits was not a quick fix.
And remember, your communication problems have been many years in the making. So don’t expect them to be un-made in a few weeks – or even months.
(4) Assuming everyone, except you, has to change
Hey, whatever is wrong with communication in your organisation can be fixed if only ‘they’ do something about it, can’t it? Surely remedying the communication problems can’t mean that you personally have to do something differently?
Some senior managers really believe the answer to both these questions is ‘yes’. They need a lot more than this blog to help them understand the pitfalls of changing communication, with or without external assistance.
But for most, you’ll know that these are tongue-in-cheek and that you do have to change personally – it isn’t all someone else’s fault. The challenge is that knowing this and acting on it are two different things.
If you want to get the best value from hiring external expertise to improve communication in your business, ask them to put together a personal development plan for you, too.
(5) Failing to share the load
My final pitfall is the temptation to assume that only you can drive the change and so failing to share the responsibility for getting change to happen.
Now, this pitfall isn’t the opposite of no. 4. I’ve worked with people who felt that all the responsibility for driving the change rested on their shoulders, and yet still didn’t get it that they personally may need to do things differently!
Ultimately, while you may have instigated the change - and if you want to make the most of your external support - get other leaders to share the load of leading the change.
That will make it far easier to gain buy-in across the wider workforce than if you work in isolation. Even with external support, changing communication is NOT your sole responsibility.
In this blog I’ve shared the top five problems that I’ve found leaders face when they seek external support to change communication in their organisation. Each of these will stand between you and success so they are to be avoided: ·
- Assuming you can get on with business as usual ·
- Failing to set clear goals and measures ·
- Expecting miracles ·
- Assuming everyone, except you, has to change ·
- Failing to share the load