In my many years of employment in both the corporate world and the nonprofit world, I have seen many employees come and go. In almost all of the instances of what I like to call separation of employment (since we love to use light-hearted language to say someone was fired) I hear the same thing. The sentence that makes me cringe… are you ready for it? “There was a miscommunication.” The idea of miscommunicating is one of the biggest corporate cop-outs for poor behavior. I have learned that miscommunicating isn’t really the problem; The real problem is ineffective communication.
The Ineffective communicator has 3 popular offenders:
1. The Assumptive Communicator
I recently started working for a major communications company. While in training, the trainer began using terminology that was specific to the industry, and some of the terms were so specific that this company literally created the term. I would look around and see the faces of my peers look like they had no idea what was happening. Our trainer assumed everyone was on the same level of understanding and just kept moving. Two weeks later, while reviewing for a knowledge test, someone asked a question about what he had covered two weeks ago. Our trainer became frustrated and had to take us back to day one hour one to reteach us the basics.
We do this in our communication all the time. We assume that we are on a level playing field of understanding. When communicating within the organization, it’s valuable to remember the audience.
Speak to the understanding of the group in ways they clearly grasp and understand.
2. The Fill In The Blank Communicator
Visionary leaders tend to be the worst at this one! They come to the room with a fresh new idea that hit their brain less than two hours ago while making their pour-over coffee. You learn how this could take the organization to the next level and how this is the future of the industry. Yet, they have zero details of the who, what, or even why. The only thing left to do is for the employees to fill in the blanks. Then when it comes to launching the product or event, it just misses the mark. This kind of communication is challenging because it’s exciting, the room normally latches onto the hype but it ultimately disappoints.
Fill in the gaps when communicating, make sure everyone fully understands the why. When they understand the reasons why they are able to ask questions and execute on the vision.
3. The Blurry Communicator
Have you ever missed a deadline that you didn’t even know existed? Okay, maybe it’s just me. There have been times in my employment history when a boss asked me for an update but I had literally nothing to say. When we communicate to our team its important to leave nothing to the imagination on what the boundaries are. Does this require a follow-up meeting? Does this need a weekly email update? Do we need to have a team meeting? This seems so simple but this fatal error is the most common catalyst for someone losing the trust of their employer.
Think about that employee where you question what they might be doing with their time. Now, truly ask yourself if you have given them clear deadlines and boundaries that they need to be successful.
Communication is key for every organization, walk into work tomorrow with the understanding that you will be the leader that doesn’t assume understanding, that doesn’t leave employees to fill in the blanks, and ensures that boundaries are never blurry.