Why Communication Matters
Effective communication is a critical component of organizational success. It is used to exchange information, persuade others to accept our message, solve problems and, even entertain. Not every organization or their leaders do it well. To become an effective communicator, you need to have the desire, understand the communication process, master basic skills and practice.
According to The Holmes Report, the cost of poor communication is substantial. It cites the following:
- The total estimated cost of employee misunderstanding (including actions or errors of omission by employees who have misunderstood or were misinformed about company policies, business processes, job function or a combination of the three) in 100,000-employee companies, among 400 surveyed corporations in the United States and the United Kingdom, is $37 billion
- The average annual cost per company is $62.4 million
- Cumulative annual cost per worker due to productivity losses resulting from communications barriers is $26,041
Communication occurs in every aspect of business, which is why understanding how ineffective communication can impact organizations’ bottom line is important. As mistakes and misunderstandings add up, profits go down.
The good news is that everyone possesses the ability to communicate effectively. Great leadership requires effective communication, and effective communication allows shared leadership to thrive in this competitive economy. Communication is the vehicle to accelerate teamwork within your high-performance organization. As organizations prepare to compete in today’s ever-changing and challenging environment, they understand that communication is one of the most important skills to develop in business training.
Effective communication inspires results. It allows employees to be their best and creates organizational synergy – the interaction of team members to produce an effect greater than the sum of each individual contribution. In short, effective communication and teamwork are the solutions to many challenges our organizations face today.
The Importance of Listening
Since communication is a two-way process, being a good listener is essential for effective communication to occur. Listening is the ability to accurately perceive a message conveyed by another person. It is far more than the exchange of information. It is effectively used to create a “safe place” for others to explore their inner feelings. Effective listening builds confidence and trust in relationships.
Good listeners have the ability to be open to the conversation and willing to listen. They can concentrate and listen actively, not passively and they know to ask questions, specifically open ones, to show interest and listen to the answers. Skilled listeners also go one step further and ask for feedback to reinforce they heard the correct message.
Active listening is a skill that enhances and encourages communication. Becoming a good listener means being attentive to the person speaking and actively seeking clarification and understanding of what is said. Becoming a good listener involves these essential elements:
- Paying attention and showing you are listening
- Establishing and maintaining good eye contact
- Using silence when appropriate
- Not jumping to conclusions – listening to all that is said
- Keeping an open mind and not picking and choosing what you would like to hear
- Seeking clarification and paraphrasing what you have heard
Non-Verbal Listening Skills
- Make frequent eye contact
- Smile and nod
- Lean toward the speaker
- Cross your arms
- Look down and away from the speaker
- Tap fingers or fidget
- Explain ideas clearly
- Express opinions clearly and concisely
- Ask listeners if they are following the conversation
- Control emotional responses
- Allow others to finish their thoughts
- Focus on actions and behavior, not individuals or personality
- Have empathy
- Can admit mistakes and willing to apologize
- Opt to resolve problems diplomatically
- Ask thoughtful questions to receive clarification
- Respect others’ ideas and words
- Patiently wait for the speaker to make his or her point
- Ask relevant questions for clarification of points
- Repeat, paraphrase or summarize comments to ensure understanding
- Maintain eye contact with the speaker
- Avoid personal biases
- Acknowledge the speaker through positive body language
Effective communication is an essential part of leadership. Some leaders choose to use informal communication means as they can be received more readily. Others prefer formal processes. As a leader, it is important to understand the audience and choose the method that will be most positively received. Leaders must be able to separate fact from inference and be able to provide accurate details and directions.
Black Diamond Leaders provides high-performance leadership and team development programs and coaching. If you’d like to learn more about how you may benefit from working with us, please let us know.