Communications can be one of the greatest strengths or greatest weaknesses of an organization. In part one of the “Why is Communication Important in Leadership” series, we discussed the importance of leaders today needing to seek more of a “conversation” with your employees versus a series of commands. The first element of managing communications was trust, but it does not stand alone. Leaders must also ensure there is an element of communication inclusion within your organization.
Professional Communication must be a two-way exchange. But this two-way exchange must include employees from all levels of your organization. Here are some suggested steps to ensure there is communication inclusion within your organization:
Close the gap.
Good communications require leaders to close the gaps between leadership and employees- institutional, attitudinal, and sometimes even spatial. It is essential that there be mental or emotional proximity. Reduce the institutional gap by shifting from the top-down distribution of information to a bottom-up exchange of ideas. Be less “corporate” and more “casual” in tone. Decrease the attitudinal gap by understanding the greatest form of communication takes place within a conversation, not through a lecture or speech. Obviously, reducing the physical gap would require walking the floor and talking face-to-face with employees.
Use technology...to a point.
Technology, such as company intranet sites, Twitter and Facebook, allow for the sharing of information up and down an organization. But used incorrectly, it becomes another method of simply “broadcasting” your message without gaining the input and insight of your employees. The Coca-Cola company uses their intranet to allow employees an opportunity to become Coke “ambassadors” through volunteer activities. While not required of the employee, the site allows those who wish to become “ambassadors” for the brand to become involved by relaying sales leads. Also, when posting updates to the company site, ensure the site allows for responses from the employees. Work with Human Resources to establish guidelines on responses. Finally, allow employee blogs on your company website.
Make no assumptions.
Many managers feel that they have established an “open door” policy with their employees, and the employees are taking advantage of the policy. Therefore, the employees are sharing with the manager. The reality is the manager will only know what they are being told, not what they aren’t. Open-door policies require the employee to initiate the conversation. Instead of waiting for the employee to come to your door, knock on theirs. Actively seek the input of your subject matter experts. After all, those who do the work know most about the work. Additionally, suggestion boxes also require the employee to initiate the conversation. Instead, consider allowing time during regular meetings for employees input on suggested improvements. Importantly, follow-up with the suggestions you receive.
Your employees are your greatest assets. Making them feel included in the company as a whole will increase their loyalty to not just your organization but to you as a leader. Increasing the communication between you and your employees will increase the sense of inclusion thus increase your companies production.