Archive for the ‘Workplace Communication’ Category
The outcome of your assessment
An assessment of the effectiveness of these aspects of communication between management and employees can help you to understand why communication is not as effective as it could be and should provide some clear signposts for action to redress the problems. (A good assessment should enable you to avoid the trap of just doing more of what you have already been doing.)
Out of that assessment you should have some practical information on:
- the key strengths of existing communication methods;
- the areas of communication that are not working well; and
- the types of communication that will be more effective;
When you have information like this about the communication in your organization you can then develop a communication plan to improve the effectiveness of communication between management and the workforce.
Finally, be prepared to innovate in your communication. Doing the same thing year-in-year-out may not be delivering you the best results.
Everyone was delighted with our exit,’ says our CEO. ‘But we could have got there faster, cleaner and in better shape from a valuation point of view if we’d had someone to help us.’
An experienced mentor would have pointed out that the contracts Barlow had with many of his government clients were, like many public sector contracts, non-transferable to an acquirer. Since nearly half of the business was with the public sector, it was a critical oversight. One client which developed a chip for USB devices was sold in an all-share deal worth several.
‘At an early stage, Copernicus identified the need for a chairman for the company who had already sold a business while acted Copernicus as advisory who could help maximize our value,’ says our client. ‘It’s what we classify as “grey hair”; someone who had been there and done it before.’
The company did however decline our tax advisory service.
To his chagrin, he ended up paying full tax on the shares he received in return for his company. ‘I’m still quite bitter about it,’ he states. ‘To anyone selling a business, I would say get good tax advice, and make sure that you pay for it.’
Most first-time business sellers underestimate the amount of time, effort and sheer hassle involved in a typical sale.
One MD describes his exit to us as ‘mind-glowingly onerous’. After eight months of negotiations, he and his acquirer traveled to Oxford with their respective legal teams to seal the deal.
‘I expected it to take a day. It took four days, and each one of them we were up until two or three in the morning. At some points we were on the point of saying, “Let’s just get a cab home and tell them where to go.”’ Unless you’re well prepared for it, this emotional and physical strain may cloud your judgment and affect the smooth running of the business at the most critical point.
Be warned ‘If you are selling, you have to understand that you are giving up the business entirely, and to see it as a commercial transaction. Personal feelings shouldn’t come into it.’
Wanting to get the best valuation for the company you have slaved over is understandable. But asking for too much can be a turn-off for prospective buyers, according one entrepreneur, who sold his own direct mail business recently.
‘Overvaluation is very, very common,’ he states. ‘If you’re a start-up and you pitch it too high (or too low, for that matter) potential investors will just walk away.’
On the flip side, there’s a danger of being seduced by what might be an illusory gain. The sale of a computer training business to AIM-listed Adval Group in an all-share deal is an example.
‘If you are selling purely for shares, your destiny has been handed to somebody else,’ he says. ‘Inevitably, there will be a lock-in period, so you can’t crystallize your gains for some time.
‘It doesn’t represent an exit – you have just exchanged one set of equity for another.’
Why is it that, when so many businesses commit so many resources to internal communication, people always seem to say that communication in workplaces is a significant problem?
One reason is that too often we take “communication” for granted. After all, we know how to talk to people, don’t we?
In organization surveys (and also in exit interviews) employees frequently say that no one ever tells them anything or listens to them – but managers say in reply that they seem never to stop communicating with employees on important matters.
Poor communication – or perceptions of poor communication – can be directly linked to increased operating costs and reduced efficiency because of:
- lower productivity of people
- employee dissatisfaction
- employee turnover
- lack of understanding of business strategy
- lack of common direction
In most cases, when people criticism communication in an organization, the concern is expressed in general terms such as “communication is bad” or “we are never given enough information”.
Such criticisms are hard to respond to and do not really identify specifically what the problem is with communication. (So the response is often to change nothing about the way communication is delivered – on the assumption either that there is nothing really wrong or that nothing can be done. The other reaction is to just to do more of what is already being done – thereby worsening the “problem”.)
So what needs to happen?
As a first step, it is important to understand that communication is more than simply talking to people or giving information. There are a number of reasons why communication may not be effective. To apply a “generic fix” or to make changes to address the wrong cause of the breakdown will, in all probability, deliver an outcome that is not greatly improved.
Consider these four areas in which communication may fail to be effective.
Just as people learn in different ways, people absorb communication in a variety of ways. So, it is important to ensure that the “style” of communication is varied to ensure that everyone will understand the message.
At its most basic level, consider presenting important information in pictures, spoken and written.
Make sure that, as often as possible, your communication is “two way”. There must be an opportunity for questions, discussion and clarification of the key issues. Messages, emails or notices are much more able to be misunderstood, misplaced or simply not read.
Be sure that what you are communicating has the right level of detail and is expressed in a way that the audience will understand. Too much detail will cause some people to switch off but too little detail may give the impression that there is something being hidden or avoided.
Using language that people understand, for example, means that any jargon used is understood by everyone and complex language and words are kept to a minimum.
Timing and frequency
Many organizations fall into the trap of communicating too often or too rarely with their employees. Getting the balance right is a matter of having a clear purpose for each communication and keeping to commitments rather than just a schedule.
It is also important not to save important communications with employees until the end of the day or shift or until the end of the week. The chances of a focused and interested audience are, predictably, quite small.
Make sure that the people who are delivering the communication have the skills to get the message across – that may include good written communication skills, good presentation skills or good group facilitation skills.
You may also need to invest in the skills of those being communicated with. Giving employees basic financial literacy so that they can understand business performance data, for example, will help to ensure that information about profitability, liquidity, financial statements or sales and turnover will not be ignored or misunderstood.
- Avoid forming “enemy” relationships. The subtle art of influence is often lost in the heat of organizational battle. When interaction becomes strained or bias exists, the negative interaction coupled with the distance that often results invites selective scanning and projection. We see what we want to see to keep our enemies “the enemy”. If a relationship is limited to polite indifference and significant negative interaction, expect polarization and an “enemy” relationship. In such relationships everyone loses. Take seriously the words of Confucius, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Even your most difficult people usually have some people they work well with. Make one of those people you. Don’t look for the worst; learn to look for the best in even difficult people.
- Invest time building positive bridges to your difficult people. Abraham Lincoln reportedly said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” Don’t be insincere; look for ways to be sincere. It takes a history of positive contact to build trust. Try building a four-to-one positive to negative contact history. Give specific recognition and ask for assistance in the areas you respect their opinions. Work together on a common cause and search for areas of common ground. By being a positive bridge builder, you build a reputation all will see and come to respect even if a few difficult people never respond.
Finally, don’t forget to spend some time looking in a mirror. Ron Zemke put it well when he said, “If you find that everywhere you go you’re always surrounded by jerks and you’re constantly being forced to strike back at them or correct their behavior, guess what? You’re a jerk.” Influencing others starts by making sure that you’re not being difficult yourself.