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Article No.: 12-7, 07/01/12

Article Title: Building Organizational Communication Capacity 

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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Does this scenario sound much too familiar to you?  Your company is making some organizational structure changes, and at this point only the top level leadership team has been briefed on the rollout plan.  However, there’ve been water cooler discussions around the company about the impending changes which paint a picture that’s far different from reality.  Employees came to your office just this morning asking whether the company was closing and moving to Mexico!
Situations like this, where communication – or lack of it, are all too common in  U.S. businesses across the country.  As a leader, you can be proactive in efforts to ensure that communication in your organization is timely, truthful and clear.
As individuals we each have filters that shape our world view and our interpretation of others’ messages.  These filters vary based on our position, our seniority level, and our past experiences…. to personal characteristics like age, gender and personality.  As leaders, the more we’re aware of the existence of these filters across our organization, the better our ability to tailor communications to ensure clarity.
Crystal clear organization communication has some specific elements.  This type of communication is:

  • Problem-Solution Oriented
  • Flexible to Meet Changing and Unfolding Events
  • Specific Related to Results Expected
  • Clear as to Who Owns the Message (the source)

These elements ensure trust across the organization, even when people don’t like the message.
Realistically, we also have to understand barriers to effective communication so we can design tactics to minimize their impact.  These potential barriers include federal regulations; labor laws; and timing of communications from outside authorities.  If these barriers do exist, I encourage you to be transparent about your latitude to make decisions while working around these influences.
When a change is looming large, my experience has taught me that these communication elements will be most effective:

  • Be specific.  What are the definitive success criteria for adapting to changes in processes, systems or laws?
  • Who will be affected by impending changes, and what resources are available to help with required changes in skills or technical capability?
  • Check for understanding often.  Ask follow-up questions.
  • Ensure closure on each new topic introduced in communications.  What commitments need to be secured before you leave a meeting or discussion?

If you have any questions or need more information about this article, please complete our Contact Form, or contact Dr. Gravett by telephone at 513-753-8870.

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