While it would be nice to have the oratory skill of Tony Blair or to possess the ability to write like Jim Collins you don’t have to be a polished public speaker or a prolific writer to be an effective communicator. It can take years of training to master the art of weaving together great word pictures in either written or oral form. While I suggest to all my clients that they continually seek to improve their written and oral communication ability, this article will focus on 5 actionable steps that can be implemented immediately by senior executives to achieve an almost instantaneous improvement in communications productivity.
Much has been written about the art and science of external communication, but the importance of internal communication is often overlooked. It is just assumed that executives communicate well with management, management communicates well with staff and that peers communicate well with one another. Any business is only as effective as its ability to excel at managing its internal corporate communications.
I believe that 90+ percent of all problems in business can be avoided with excellent communication. Effective communication is motivating, unifying, efficient and absolutely essential to productivity and corporate success. Excellent communicators are contagious. Their ability to influence, motivate and to catalyze change is a well known fact. Examine any leading company and you’ll find an emphasis placed on effective communication from the C-suite down to the receptionist.
As a senior executive it is important to lead by example. Leaders must be great communicators. If your executive leadership promotes clear, open and honest communication the rest of the organization will follow suit. Begin by incorporating the following 5 items into your communications arsenal:
1. Walk the Floor: In every senior leadership position I have held I have made it a point when not traveling to get out of my office and tour the building each and every day. I make a point to stop and talk to as many people as possible even if the conversation is only a brief one. Too many executives hide out in the corner office to their own detriment. Walking the floor gives you perspective and insight into what is really happening in the trenches giving you a feel for the business that you would never have from solely from reading a management report.
2. Hit Conflict Head-on: Never stick your head in the sand. Problems don’t solve themselves and will only get worse if not attended to. Conflict is a reality of business and therefore conflict resolution is a skill set that must be honed to perfection. I have always made it a policy to aggressively seek out conflict and deal with it on my terms before conflict finds me and I have terms dictated to me.
3. Utilize Technology: There is only so much time in the day and while technology is certainly no substitute for direct personal communication, used properly it can nicely augment your efforts and increase your leverage. If you are not effectively utilizing your company intranet, instant messaging, e-mail, mobile communications, newsletters, Webinars, conference calls, etc. then you are not even coming close to communicating at an optimum level.
4. Maximize Meetings: While I often refer to meetings as a necessary evil, when my attendance is required you can bet that I will maximize the time spent in said meetings. Don’t have meetings just for the sake of having meetings and don’t call a meeting without a purpose that results in actionable items. All meetings should be managed according to an agenda and should start and end on time. If your employees know that meetings are productive they will come prepared to add value and get things done as opposed to resenting just another time suck being imposed upon them.
5. Make the Most of Lunches: While I typically prefer to work through lunch I have always made it a point to take an employee to lunch once each week. Don’t fall into the lunch bunch click of having casual “executive lunches” with the same group on a frequent basis. The lunch bunch mentality is rarely productive and can in fact become very non-productive. Much like “walking the floor” the employee lunch is a good chance to build relationships, gather information, mentor, coach and influence behavior.
There are very few areas of personal development that will produce the return on investment that improving your communications skills will provide. Work tirelessly in improving both your personal communications ability and the quality and consistency of your internal corporate communications and watch the value of both your personal stock and your company stock skyrocket.
Mike Myatt is the Chief Strategy Officer at N2growth. N2growth is a leading venture growth consultancy providing a unique array of professional services to high growth companies on a venture based business model. The rare combination of branding and corporate identity services, capital formation assistance, market research and business intelligence, sales and product engineering, leadership development and talent management, as well as marketing, advertising and public relations services make N2growth the industry leader in strategic growth consulting. More information about the company can be found at http://www.N2growth.com