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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insights - Who’s Talking To You?

CEO InsightsCEO Journal

Who’s Talking To You?

Jason Richmond
Jason Richmond

My grandfather Elmer, a hardworking farmer in rural Iowa, would say one of two things to me every time I left his house.

“Don’t take no wooden nickels” or “Don’t get stuck in the mud.”

Two sage pieces of advice from a man who raised a beautiful family while working from dawn to dusk (and beyond). He and I were very close, and I went to see him all the time.

I took his words of wisdom seriously—he’d been around a long time and seen and done a lot. Basically, with his first saying he was telling me to be wary of being taken for a ride. Don’t accept anything at face value without weighing up the situation. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you.  And his second saying was encouragement not to get into a rut, get hung up on the small stuff, and always to be ready to try something new. Be adventurous in life.

These messages obviously had an impact on me, as they still resonate today.

When you think about it, my grandfather was a great communicator. His messages were clear and simple. The sayings were pithy and memorable. And the fact that he repeated them every time I left his home meant that they got etched in my brain.

How many corporate leaders can claim to make the same kind of impression on their workforce? How many communicate effectively so their teams are up-to-speed with company developments, on the same wavelength, and motivated to spur the organization to increased productivity?

A Microsoft study found that 96% of business decision makers and 95% of employees say that effective communication is crucial to keeping everyone engaged and informed.

Unfortunately, there’s often a disconnect between management and the workforce. In a new survey of 1,500 executives and workers by communications management platform Axios HQ:

  1. 77% of leaders feel that their organization’s essential communications are helpful and relevant; only 46% of employees agree.
  2. 78% of leaders say communications are clear and engaging; 51% of employees agree.
  3. 66% of leaders think they’re aligned with employees; 44% of employees agree.
  4. 70% of leaders think their staff and stakeholders can quickly find the organizational goals, strategies, or directives they need; 46% of employees agree.

It all adds up. The cost of ineffective communication costs U.S. companies as much as $2 trillion a year.

You can have the best product or service on the planet, and you can recruit the best possible talent, but it can all be to no avail—if you fail to communicate your company mission, goals, and strategies to your workforce.

In my work as a culture change consultant with companies across the U.S. and abroad, I’ve found some rules of thumb that always work to improve communication.

Keep it Simple

Regular team updates—or even major policy change announcements—are not the venue to exhibit your wonderful command of the English language. Many executives find it hard to resist writing a flowery turn of phrase or pontificating using words most people have to look up in the dictionary to understand. Shorter, simpler, snappier words are more effective.

Less is More

It’s estimated that across the globe, 347 billion emails will be sent and received in 2023—every day. It may well be that your employees feel that they’re getting more than their fair share. Don’t blast out emails every time a thought crosses your mind. Be selective. Only email when you have something important to say. It has been found that employees waste 90 minutes every day recovering from email interruptions.

Keep it Brief

There’s a time and place for lengthy reports, and no one wants to receive, and no one is likely to read, a War and Peace length email. Stick to the key points. Write in clear, concise language. It’s all-too-easy for email correspondence to be open to interpretation. Text messages are even worse.

Make it Targeted

Do you feel that you’re often unnecessarily copied on emails that contain information that’s just not relevant to you. Imagine how much time it takes to even speed read before pressing the delete button. Never mind the aggravation of being caught up in a seemingly endless chain. Streamline your own communications. Make sure they’re only going to those who need to know. Don’t send everything to everybody unless it’s an important company-wide announcement.

Make it Personal

Facts and figures are important. But always seek to make a personal connection with your audience whether you’re writing to one employee or 100 employees. Relate any personal story that’s relevant to the topic under discussion as it will strike a more meaningful and memorable chord.

Be Consistent

If you’re doing all of the above, there’s one other attribute that’s important—and that’s to communicate on a regular basis. Perhaps a weekly email to your core team. The same day, every week. If it meets the above criteria and it’s informative as well as entertaining, it should be something your team eagerly anticipates!

Give Them What They Want

I’ve focused on email communication because 49% of companies prefer to use this method, and 40% of employees concur. Thirty three percent of workers prefer meetings, 27% recurring newsletters, and 16% are in favor of Intranet. There’s a role for all these methods—and more, depending on circumstances.

Good communication is a two-way street. Empower employees to give feedback using their preferred method and always be responsive to that feedback. Some 36% of employees want to provide feedback but don’t feel they are given the opportunity.

It’s always good to ring the changes. A quick in-person meeting, personal phone call, or small team meeting go a long way to foster good and productive working relationships rather than all-person, all-purpose blanket emails. Weekly or bi-weekly Zoom calls and the occasional company retreat deliver opportunities for different kinds of meaningful communication and team building.

As the report “The 2023 state of essential workplace communications,” states, “It’s like building a bionic brain—finding a way to take advantage of all the information you have, synthesizing it in an accurate way, sharing it, so folks have a clear context, trusting them to act once informed, and empowering them to revisit if ever they need.”

At Ideal Outcomes, we practice what we preach, which is vital when our core team is spread across a dozen states. Email communication is consistent and targeted to those who need to know. No unnecessary copying of information to the entire team. On a bi-weekly basis, there’s an all-hands Zoom meeting that’s recorded for those who can’t attend. And annually, we all get together for a working four-day retreat, a combination of brainstorming and fun.

An organization’s productivity, profitability, employee satisfaction, and retention are all impacted by the quality of its communications. Leaders who recognize this will reap the rewards.

 

Written by Jason Richmond


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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insights - Who’s Talking To You?
Jason Richmond
Jason Richmond is an authoritative culture change strategist whose work over the past twenty-plus years has helped companies build strong, sustained revenue growth by empowering their employees and developing energizing office cultures.

As President/CEO and Chief Culture Officer for Ideal Outcomes, Inc., he has designed and implemented Leadership Development Journeys for Fortune 100 companies and he has guided numerous start-ups on the path to become noted industry leaders. He has also supplied thought leadership and innovative consulting services to a wide range of mid-size companies.

Author of two books Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth and Culture Ignited: 5 Disciplines for Adaptive Leadership, and a member of Forbes Business Council, Jason is an in-demand keynote speaker who captivates audiences with his direct, refreshing, no-nonsense style.

In addition, he heads up a team of culture strategists and trainers whose learning course on the Udemy platform Foundations of a Strong Corporate Culture provides students with a framework for transformative culture change. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Jason Richmond is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.