Recently Bloomberg conducted a study among 1,320 recruiters from 600 companies asking, “What skills does your company want or need but cannot find in job candidates?” Some of the 14 skills included items like:
- Decision Making
- Strategic Thinking
- Leadership Skills
- Creative Problem Solving
Ironically, we already measure every one of those 14 skills with our Job Matching System but the one that was consistently at the top of the needed skills list across all industries was:
Without the ability to communicate effectively, your “cultural fit” doesn’t matter. Your experience doesn’t matter. Your leadership potential doesn’t matter. Your strategic thought processes don’t matter. If you cannot insure that the message you’re sending is properly received without a loss in translation, nothing else matters.
It’s no surprise that leaders, teams, families, and organizations with great communication skills are more successful. But what does it mean to be a good communicator? It starts with knowing yourself.
- If I know more about me than you know about you, I can control the situation.
- If I know more about me and know more about you than you know about yourself, I can control the communication.
Truly successful people know and understand themselves. They know their own strengths and weaknesses and they have a well-developed ability to study a situation and adjust both their behavior and their communication for maximum effectiveness.
The great news is that improving communications is possible. But sometimes, you have to consider the Dunning-Kruger Effect and realize that those who need it rarely recognize that they need it. Dunning-Kruger says that, for any given skill (communications, for example), unskilled people will:
- Fail to recognize their own lack of skill
- Fail to recognize genuine skill in others
- Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy
- BUT — will recognize and acknowledge their previous lack of skill IF they are exposed to training for that skill
That’s where Communications Training comes in because no one can correct a problem if they don’t even know it exists.
What are some of the indicators you, your team, or someone on your team needs communications training?
1. Listening to Reply
Teams that truly listen don’t listen to reply, they listen to understand. Do they interrupt with “BUT” or “However” or do they ask questions to foster better understanding?
2. Differing Priorities Different Pages
Employees and teams all have multiple priorities and a To-Do list as long as your arm but few people have the exact same list. You may think you’ve communicated which items are top priority but if you ask for a status update on Project “A” and the employees says, “Oh, I’ve been working on Project ‘B’ all week” it’s a communications issue.
3. Recurring Arguments
Do your teams repeatedly spar over the same disagreements? Do they use the words “always” or “never” when speaking to, with, or about other team members? Are issues resolved or do they seep into each project that comes up?
4. Projects Miss Their Target
You may think you’ve explained everything very well but if your idea of a project’s deliverable is different than the team’s idea, you’ll miss your target every time. Somehow what you communicated wasn’t received properly. When employees think they understand, they don’t ask for more information. Whether they understand or not is the job of the manager. When a manager understands HOW an employee receives information, better communication is always the result.
5. Disrespect for Another’s Point of View
We each see things differently because of a myriad of inputs (education, experiences, thought patterns, parental upbringing, personality, etc.). Do team members respect each other’s point of view or do they belittle or discount another person’s ideas? Disagreement over conclusions, recommendations, or how-to’s is great, even healthy, in a team atmosphere. Expressing disrespect for another team member’s point of view, however, is not.
It may be that your team needs an Emotional Intelligence Workshop in addition to Communications Training. Emotions work their way into virtually everything we do so if you have team member’s that are easily angered, frequently express impatience, are constantly worried or fearful, always take the negative viewpoint, can never be satisfied with the amount of data you have, or cannot work through their emotions, training can help.
7. Withholding Information
Information is power in today’s world. I once worked with a VP who asked why I was explaining to lower level associates how our company calculated ROI, why it was important, and how doing their jobs well factored into the calculation. His response? “Ron, WE’RE management. We don’t have to explain anything to anybody.” Blew. Me. Away. I’ve never forgotten it.
Any information that helps your team do a better job or understand how their jobs/projects factor into the success of the company is information that should be shared. Teams or team members that hold onto information nuggets for the sake of hoarding information nuggets desperately need communications training (and probably some other training as well).
Teams with good communication skills will still have misunderstandings. No one is perfect, but those misunderstandings are quickly corrected and are fewer and farther between. Teams needing communication training misunderstand each other’s actions and try to assign intent to the impact those actions may have. Once a team has decided intent, most decisions thereafter are not the best.
9. Failure to Talk At All
Clamming up is never a good thing. Emails that go unanswered, phone calls that are never returned, status updates that are never sent all point to a team or team member’s failure to communicate on a timely basis. Many times problems are growing during these periods of “radio silence” … problems that could be easily solved when caught early but wind up growing into full-grown-issues due to a lack of communication. If your teams are failing to communicate at all, communications training can help.
Earlier, I mentioned assigning intent based on the impact a person’s actions had. Anytime we do that, we have to make assumptions. Making assumptions isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes, because we have to operate quickly with limited information, we’re forced to assume a few things in order to continue driving a project forward. But if a team or team member is making assumptions about the intent of another, that rarely is accurate. We all know what “assume” means and for the most part, it’s true. Assuming, without having perfect knowledge, can put egg on our face. Teams with good communications skills rarely have to assume anything because they’re constantly asking questions to improve their own understanding.
Correcting A Team’s Communications Issues
There are several ways:
1. Schedule a Communications Workshop. Depending on the size of the group, these can take as little as half a day and it’s a fantastic way to help teams understand each other. We’ve conducted thousands of these workshops and participants are constantly amazed how they can improve their communications skills within the group.
2. Clearly clarify your team’s deliverables. Every team member has to get on the same page and be pulling toward the same goal. I’ve personally created checklists for my teams in the past to insure that what needed to be accomplished was on everyone’s radar. Then, ask your employees to explain those deliverables to you.
3. Set clear expectations in light of your mission. Think like a reporter when it comes to expectations: who, what, when, where, why, and how. How often do you want updates? Who is responsible? What are the deliverables? Where and when are they to occur? Then make sure your employees understand why. Once employees understand why, 99% of them are better engaged.
4. Check in on a regular basis. Since so many teams are scattered, it isn’t easy to saunter by the cube farm and ask, “How’s it going?” anymore. Schedule regular intervals so the team knows you’ll be checking with them.
5. Understand how each employee receives information best. You’ll need to assess each employee to accurately accomplish this aspect but it provides a stratospheric ROI when you can tailor your message to each employee’s patterns of receiving information.
Communications Issues Never Fix Themselves
It’s incumbent on managers to recognize and work to correct communications issues on their teams. Hoping they’ll improve NEVER works. Tackle the issue head on and ask if they’d like to have a workshop training session to help improve their communications, get accurately heard by other team members, and achieve higher levels of productivity.
If you enjoyed in this article, please hit the ‘like’ button and share via your Twitter (@RonHaynesMBA), LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook pages. And don’t be shy! Join in the conversation – Ask questions – Add a comment! And follow my LinkedIn post page for all my articles.
Certified as a Professional Behavioral, Motivators, and Emotional Intelligence Analyst, Ron Haynes specializes in using the science of TTI’s TriMetrix HD to help companies select and develop their top talent, create job matching solutions, and implement succession planning.
He has recently developed an auditing process to help organizations more accurately calculate true cost of employee turnover. It’s staggeringly higher than you think.
Need a solution to your employee challenges? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 870-761-7881.