Posted by: Bill von Achen | March 5, 2010

A Little Less Communication?

In almost every consulting and executive coaching engagement I’ve handled over the years, the challenges facing my clients are typically compounded by poor internal communications. 

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t plenty of talking going on in these companies.  Throughout the day, there are lots of informal conversations, and what I call “drive-by meetings” where someone just drops in to pass on a piece of information or ask a question about one matter or another.  In other offices, a flurry of e-mail and text messages throughout the day substitute for the informal face-to-face discussions (the silence is broken only by the clicking of keyboards!). 

Instead, the problem as I see it is not the frequency of communications, but the fact that communications are not structured for maximum effectiveness. 

For example, the very business leaders who argue that they don’t have time to schedule regular meetings with their key managers have no problem spending the same or more time having multiple, unscheduled discussions throughout the day with those same managers.  They believe that they’re managing effectively, but they’re unintentionally interrupting everyone else’s work.

Then, there are those business leaders who live in fear of creating a company culture dominated by “too many meetings,” so they don’t have any.  (Perhaps they were traumatized early in their career by being forced to sit in a meaningless three hour discussion with 10 co-workers about where to hold the corporate holiday party!)  So, they rely on company’s informal communication network to get the word out. 

Unfortunately, the results are just like that childhood party game of “telephone,” where the story becomes distorted through serial retellings.  In the end, the quality of information is poor, unfounded rumors abound, and people become predictably uncomfortable about what they don’t know.

Clearly, what’s needed in these and similar situations is not simply more communication, but more effective communication models.  The goal of such models would be to more efficiently get everyone ‘on the same page,’ so to speak, and allow us to build a company culture where important information is accurately and efficiently transmitted to those who need to know, helping everyone to become more focused and more productive.

So, how do you foster effective communication in your company?  What approaches have worked best for you, and what have you tried that hasn’t worked out?  Share your thoughts by commenting on this post!

p.s.  When does enough communication become too much?  For an insightful perspective on this question, check out Joel Spolsky’s recent column in Inc. Magazine, entitled “A Little Less Conversation,” at http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100201/a-little-less-conversation.html.

p.p.s.  To learn more about our Effective Communications Workshop (part of our Best Practices Leadership Development Workshop series), go to www.bestpracticesforbusiness.com/workshops


Responses

  1. I recommend reading Death by Meeting by Lencioni
    Gian Luca


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