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Communicating About Communication

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Last year, Grammarly/Harris Poll released its inaugural study on The State of Business of Communication, highlighting that US companies alone lose $1.2 trillion annually to ineffective communication. Reviewing this year’s findings, I was relieved that the authors didn’t lead with how the losses are now up to $1.4 trillion (or some other unimaginable figure). Instead, State of Business Communication researchers asked: “What role does communication play at work, and how can we maximize its potential and minimize its pitfalls?” Now that’s a question worth diving into.

In a nutshell, the current situation does not demonstrate that we’re trending in the right direction. Since last year, written communication is up 18%; unfortunately, it’s 12% less effective. The study also points to poor communication as the culprit for a 15% (year-over-year) decrease in productivity and a 7% increase in worker stress. Additionally, ineffective communication contributed to a 38% increase in costs, and a 20% hit to brand reputation, while 19% of business leaders reported losing deals. There’s only one way to meet this communication challenge.

Assume You’re the Problem

In the 2022 report, 85% of business leaders and 73% of knowledge workers reported being confident about their written communication skills. Confidence remained high in 2023, despite overall outcomes being even less effective. Until we take a hard look in the mirror, invite others to help us, and become intentional about accepting responsibility for our written and verbal communication skills – in synchronous and asynchronous environments – the problem will only worsen.  

As a CEO who may be battling this issue, here’s a simple model for helping you and your employees address the situation together:


Accept that the clarity of your communication (both the message as intended and the tone) is YOUR responsibility – not that of the audience. Consider all your audiences and identify what you want to say, how you want to say it, and by what means you choose to deliver it so that it lands clearly with the right sentiment. Challenge your direct reports to do the same and have them consult with their audiences regarding how to improve.  

Invite all your employees to engage in weekly reflective exercises about communicating with one another. These exercises will address communicating more effectively while reinforcing core values and behaviors. In short, have them take time communicating about communication. After 4-6 weeks, they should continue to get together but do so less frequently. Once they share a common language about effective communication, they can address missteps among one another in real time. Using Peernovation’s Five Factor Framework of Right People, Psychological Safety, Productivity, Accountability, and Leadership, employees can identify what they expect of themselves and one another and develop action items they would own going forward. 


Practice makes perfect – or at least better. Once you implement agreed-upon best practices and bring a new and heightened attention to detail to every email, speech, text message, blog post, etc., your shared standard of excellence will begin to take hold. It will evolve from what you intentionally committed to doing to becoming part of who you are as an organization. Moreover, you’ll begin to communicate about subjects, people, and ideas you never discussed before – across the entire organization. As a result, cooperation and collaboration will flourish, and the silos will tumble around you.   


Enlist your employees to identify where and how improved communication practices bolster the company’s operational, financial, and emotional health. Then, with their help, devise your own Communication Quotient or use the Peernovation Scorecard, comprised of a menu of metrics that will demonstrate how your collective efforts are making a difference for all involved – employees, customers, vendors, and shareholders alike. Total the collective savings.


In my last article, Change and Being Changed, I talked about Peter Senge’s concept of “Faster is Slower” in the context of Systems thinking. While we may believe that taking time to communicate about communicating is a waste of time, the longer ineffective communication remains a limiting condition that goes unaddressed, the more likely it will get worse – thus further limiting your organization’s ability to function until it’s too late. If you decide to wait, you may experience one of Senge’s other axioms: “Behavior grows better before it grows worse.” Don’t be that CEO.

Written by Leo Bottary.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insider - Communicating About Communication
Leo Bottary
Leo Bottary is the founder and managing partner of Peernovation. He is a sought-after thought leader on Peer Advantage and Peernovation, emerging disciplines dedicated to strategically engaging peers to achieve personal and organizational excellence. A popular author of three books, including Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-performing Teams (Archway; October 16, 2020), he is also an author, keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and thought leader on the topic of peer advantage.

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) (ABD) in Organizational Leadership Studies at Northeastern University.
M.A. in Strategic Communication & Leadership at Seton Hall University.
B.A. in Political Science and German at Jacksonville University.

Books by Leo Bottary:
Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-performing Teams (Archway; October 16, 2020).
What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself With the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity and Personal Growth (Routledge; September 3, 2018).
The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success (Bibliomotion; March 22, 2016).

Leo Bottary is a member of the External Advisory Board (EAB) for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.