Need to Up Your Communications Game, but Don’t Know Where to Begin?
Sometimes the reason communication improvements get shuffled to the bottom of the to-do list is simply because it’s so difficult to know where to begin. Especially when there are issues across the entire organization. How do you get heads, hearts, and minds around improving something everyone takes for granted? Here are a few ideas to consider that might help you take those first steps.
1. Just Start.
The best place to begin is to honestly get your biggest pain points down on paper. Are you drowning in email? Embarrassed by what’s going out the door to your partners and public? Would your people rather send a text or email than walk down the hall and have a face-to-face conversation or pick up the phone? It doesn’t really matter what the challenges are, you need to begin by identifying them.
2. Make the Decision.
Once you know what the problems are, you can start to design solutions, which is the next key step. Make a conscious decision to improve. You don’t have to shoot for perfection in everything but making a commitment to progress from where you are today toward something better makes the goal much more achievable. And saying it out loud to someone else on your team will help make it real.
3. Become the Champion.
Once you’ve made the decision, you must become a champion for improvement. This kind of organization-wide change needs to come from the top down. Your team must see and hear your commitment and understand that expectations will be set for everyone at all levels. Admin staff can’t be the ones expected to drive this because it will be like pushing a rope.
4. Approach it Holistically.
If the list of pain points is driving you crazy, you can bet they’re a thorn in the side of others as well. Rather than taking a hard line and setting out a bunch of “Thou shall not” rules, it works more effectively to take a holistic approach. You don’t want to have to resort to becoming the ‘communication police’, so take each pain point, outline some best practices for dealing with it, and then talk with your teams about what could work for your organization.
Decide on some guidelines and set the expectation that as professionals, everyone will do their best to follow them for a set period of time (1-2 weeks). Then come back together and discuss what worked, what didn’t, and why then adjust if need be. The approach is to encourage everyone to make the effort to improve because it’s in the best interests of all involved. Perfection isn’t the goal, improvement is.
5. Pace Yourself.
Bad communication habits can become ingrained into the culture of an organization. Making changes to a culture takes time, discipline, and consistency. So, don’t try to change everything at once. Choose a few things that you know are high on the list of annoyances and start there. What you’re aiming for are a few quick wins to show the team that improvement is possible and give them a sense of how good that can feel.
6. Build in Accountability.
Though the approach is one of expectation and self-motivation, it can be beneficial to reinforce accountability by helping your teams understand their role in the organization’s overall communication efforts and then building in corresponding responsibilities to their performance evaluation framework. Communicating well should be a part of any job, but assuming it happens without spelling out what that looks like makes it nearly impossible to measure.
Good communication impacts the quality, service, engagement, and staff morale in any organization or business for the better. And it’s something everyone, no matter what their role, does every single day on the job. Having the courage and discipline to make improvements has no downside, it just takes a commitment and some effort.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
-George Bernard Shaw
Communication is a skill that you can learn. It's like riding a bicycle or typing. If you're willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.