During a recent business trip to Russia, I was told a fascinating story about the construction of the Moscow Four Seasons hotel. As the local legend goes, Joseph Stalin commissioned an architect for the project. The architect included two options of the building’s façade on the same drawing for Stalin to select. The left side of the building was drawn with raised window casings with colored insets. The right side design was more subdued, without the raised window casings and less color surrounding the windows.
On the day the architect came to deliver the drawing for final approval, Secretary Stalin was in a very foul mood. He glanced at the drawing, signed it and sent his aide out the door with the document.
Needless to say, the architect was surprised to see the signature on the drawing with no decision made about the facade; however, nobody was willing to walk back into Stalin’s office to ask him to make a further decision, so the structure was built with two different facades.
While this exact type of interaction may not occur regularly, miscommunication issues occur in varying shapes and sizes every day in business (and your personal life). Some may argue that this is the most destructive element in any business.
Steven Gaffney, a global expert on communication in business, claims that “80 percent of organizational problems can be traced back to lack of honest, open communication.”
Poor communication is an epidemic afflicting business worldwide. According to a recent State of the Global Workplace report commissioned by Gallup, 85 percent of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. That is sad, but it’s also very expensive for a company of any size.
The negative impacts poor communication can have on a custom installation business and its employees are endless. It can spread like a toxic disease with detachment, anger, resentment, lack of dedication to the company, attrition, etc., permeating the entire company.
Alternatively, open and honest communication can create a firework show of positive energy: employees are more engaged, dedicated to the team and company, new ideas and initiatives are produced to improve the company inside and out.
In my experience of more than 30 years in the CE industry owning, managing, and working at numerous companies, I have discovered that some of the quietest people in the company have the best ideas, but how do you get that information to the surface?
Many junior members of the team feel ‘inferior,’ or intimidated to speak up and share their (valuable) thoughts.
Here are four ways to produce healthier communication flow in your organization.
4 Ways to Improve Internal Communication
#1: Be a Humble Leader
It’s hard to be humble, especially in some business environments where bravado and confidence are part of the culture; however, humility in leadership is important to allow other members of the team to rise up and flourish. I really love to see a leader ask each member of the team for their input, individually.
This promotes engagement and encourages creative thought and contribution. Also, it provides a podium for some less robust members of the team to vocalize their thoughts – which can be invaluable.
#2: Encourage Honest Communication
Give your team a voice and don’t punish candor. Encourage people to constructively shoot down ideas. Ask, what don’t you like about this idea? As those topics are brought to the surface, the team can work together to resolve the potential pitfalls or develop an alternative and less risky solution.
#3: Hire Smart People
Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do… we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Leverage the power of your team members; they all have experience that is different than yours. Make sure you provide the opportunity and take the time to let them share their thoughts. I love this quote from Catherine Doucette: “Every person in this life has something to teach me and as soon as I accept that, I open myself to truly listening.”
#4: Beware of E-communication
Communication that happens via email, text and other electronic or written forms is one dimensional and can easily be misinterpreted.
When we are speaking through these monochrome forms, we miss the tone, inflection, posture of the person we are communicating with, and it can often cause unnecessary conflict, sometimes lasting for several weeks, months or years until it is exposed and resolved.
The responsibility for open communication is not limited to owners, leaders, and managers. The employee also has an important role to step up and share their voice, in a respectful and productive manner.
Be bold and challenge yourself to put a voice behind some of your thoughts – you never know what could be the next big idea that you never contributed.
I vow to improve my communication in the year ahead, I hope you do also.