Have you ever heard that your organization has communication problems? When I’m coaching businesses, I start out by interviewing employees within the business. Frequently, I’ll hear that communication is an issue. I’ll hear “We never communicate” or “If we could just fix our communication problem” or “We’re really bad at communicating in this business.”
More communication is never the answer. More focused communication typically is the answer. No one wants another email, another check stuffer, or video screen with corporate messages.
“Bad communication” is almost always a red herring for something else.
The root cause of poor communication
One of my portfolio companies recently completed an employee survey. The survey showed they had “poor communication” inside their organization.
When I heard that, I laughed. I asked the leader why they thought the survey showed they had poor communication. He responded, “I think we communicate out into the organization well. But, I think, when people try and communicate back, it’s not clear. It’s tough to communicate across all lanes. Employees end up in this silos.”
The real issue around communication is usually: confusion around goals. You need a mechanism to not only communicate out the goals of a business but provide feedback on how everyone in the organization is tying their everyday work back to the goals, all while fostering a positive environment and effectively handling hostile interactions at work. You also need to be able to communicate how the company is doing on the goals on a regular basis.
How employees think about bad communication
What is our true north star? How does my role attach to the larger goals of the business? I come in every day, do my job – I have no idea how my work contributes to the bottom line.
I sit in meetings where half the people are on mental field trips, others are just doodling on paper, and two or three people are doing most of the talking. I get up and leave the meeting. There aren’t any real actions or outcomes from the meeting.
This causes confusion for an employee. This happens day in and day you. They feel overwhelmed and feel very busy. Then they get an email (a piece of “communication”) that doesn’t jive with their current understanding of their role or the company’s goals.
When all that confusion starts to happen, people aren’t great at describing the core issues that need to be solved. What do they call it? Poor communication. Employees feel they just need “better communication.” What they mean is they need better communication around their progress to help the company reach the goals.
Why do you think people say that they have an issue with communication at work?