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Effective communication is essential for an organization to be resilient and therefore able to respond to change and disruption in a flexible and innovative manner. When offices have open and honest communication at all levels and in all directions, they will be more likely to maintain their work productivity when a crisis hits.
Here are some tips for improving communication:
- Err on the side of over-communicating. While most leaders think they are communicating enough with their teams, most employees wish they had more information and report not feeling well-informed. Recognize this disconnect and try to communicate more than you think is necessary. Don’t assume that everyone will get your message with just one announcement or email. Ensure that important information is communicated in several different ways in various forums to make sure it is heard.
- Restructure staff meetings. Many staff meetings start with head of the office reporting out and then each team member giving his report. This one-way communication has limited benefits. Instead, consider focusing staff meetings on a theme or problem and then have a discussion that engages everyone. You want dialogue, not monologue.
- Ask questions. One of the best ways to improve communication is to ask probing and thoughtful questions. And then shut up and listen.
- Communicate bad news: Failure to communicate bad news leaves a vacuum that will almost always be filled by gossip and stories far worse than reality. If you have bad news, don’t hesitate to pass it on. Communicate what you can early and often. If you don’t have the full story yet, it is ok to tell people that you don’t know everything but you will tell people what you can. If you cannot tell a full story due to privacy issues, say so.
- Talk in person. Email is a limited form of communication best used to confirm information, clarify tasks or deliver non-complex details. It is a terrible tool for resolving conflict, negotiating or discussing complex issues. Pick up the phone, schedule a meeting or walk down the hall to communicate in person where you’ll have a more robust and effective conversation.
- Be clear and concise. Think elevator briefing every time you communicate. With limited time and way too many emails, writing a concise email or giving a quick simple explanation will mean you’re better understood.
- Have an open mind. Suppress your opinions and solicit input with a genuine desire to learn from others. If you’re the boss, this is even more important because employees will often tell you what they think you want to hear instead of their true thoughts. Avoid this by speaking last and valuing the opinions of others.
What have you done to improve communication in your workplace?
This blog does not represent official policies of the Department of State or those of the U.S. Government.
This article was originally published Oct. 18, 2017.