Effective Communication in the Workplace: A Leader’s Guide

Learn about different leadership communication styles and the most effective workplace communication to achieve strategic business objectives.

When leaders are tasked with the challenge of filtering their organisation’s strategic objectives down the line to create action at the grass roots level, they are often faced with significant challenges. The biggest of all being effective workplace communication.

Some common communication challenges in hierarchical organisations include:

  1. Misrepresentation of information or messages, often due to poor communication skills
  2. Information delays due to various touch points, resulting from having several layers within an organisation to contend with
  3. Downward communication being more valued than upward communication (common in large organisations)
  4. Gatekeepers slow down the flow of information
  5. Information overload – excessive electronic communication rather than real time discussion
  6. Cultural and generational barriers
  7. Lack of listening from management
  8. Isolation and silos between departments

These are just some of the common challenges that get in the way of clearly communicating organisational objectives.

In order to get better results when communicating and avoid these types of challenges, organisations need to improve their communication flow.

How is this achieved?

By improving upward and downward communication, as well as lateral communication.

Improving upward and downward communication:

  1. Create the opportunity for face to face discussion, avoid wherever possible endless emails, often a 5-minute discussion can eliminate 20 emails back and forth;
  2. Show leadership by walking around and being seen across the business, responding and engaging with frontline staff;
  3. Open door policy, encourage your teams to clarify and ask questions in real time; and
  4. Create alternative communication channels, provide options to escalate challenges or problems.

Improving lateral communication:

  1. Keep the overall purpose and key objectives front of mind;
  2. Be responsive to the needs of different learning styles;
  3. Establish regular meetings with departmental managers to collaborate and share ideas/ challenges; and
  4. Departmental managers could present to different areas of the business to showcase what they are doing and how the different departments could benefit.

The other essential element to consider is how you and your teams are communicating with each other.

Effective Workplace Communication Scale

Ranging from Ineffective to Effective.

  1. Telling – One-way communication – This sounds like, “this is our purpose, we must do it, get on board or get out”. This can be classified as a Crisis Management approach.
  2. Selling – Persuasive style – This sounds like, “we are the best, you should buy in to our purpose!”. Using this approach means you are treating employees as if they were clients.
  3. Testing – Interactive communication approach – This might mean approaching key team members with some possible directions of where you are headed, asking them “what don’t you like, what do you like?”. Apply the feedback and re-define.
  4. Consultative – Inclusive style – This style sees leaders asking their teams for input on a direction or objective, and seeking from them suggestions on ways to improve. This approach means including your employees as consultants.
  5. Co-create – Collaborative style – This means rallying your teams to create organisational purpose and direction. This means the team works collaboratively to create what the purpose and strategic direction that they want.

Ask yourself, where does my organisation sit on this scale. What can you do to improve?

Levels 4 and 5 , the consultative and co-create stages, are at the dream state. These organisations often have the best workplace cultures and the highest employee satisfaction. At these levels, leaders and their teams are communicating effectively. More than likely, they will have exceptional two-way and lateral communication within their business. Even these organisations are likely to have room for improvement, but they are well on their way to effective workplace communication.

Are you doing enough to encourage effective communication both upward, downward, and laterally?  Is there room to improve the level at which you communicate as an organisation?

If you would like more information on communication flow and effective communication training, check out our training programs.

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