Avoid Communication Issues Using These 11 Questions
Every big decision generates obstacles and opportunities. How can leaders avoid backlash from a decision? Elevating your communication is certain to help and is a critical initial step in the process.
From my experience, hands down, communication issues are THE. MOST. COMMON. challenge plaguing the majority of today’s organizations and hindering greater success. If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone!
Maybe you were promoted based on technical skills and your need to develop your communication skills is very apparent. On the other hand, you may believe your communication skills are proficient, even distinguished! Regardless, let’s pump the brakes for just a moment. For a very eye opening evaluation, we must concern ourselves with the distance between leaders who believe they’re communicating well and followers who find themselves on the opposite end of that belief. Take a moment to consider where you find yourself.
Communication issues are most often not caused by a flaw in someone’s character. Ineffective communicators are not bad people. Instead, they’re just someone who needs to develop a skill. (Don’t we all have something we need to work on?!)
Communication issues often begin by missing a step in the communication process. Admittedly, missed steps can either be a conscious or subconscious decision, but either way, a missed step is something that can be corrected going forward!
11 Questions to Guide Communication Regarding Decision Making
Asking the right questions from the beginning is a step in the communication process that will alleviate the burden of future team issues. Here are questions great leaders should consider in order to uncover who, when, and why to communicate with your team regarding a strategic direction, initiative, or decision:
1- What is the problem I’m solving?
The problem you’re solving may be declining revenue, customer or employee retention issues, regulatory concerns, loss of market share, unmet expectations, etc. Get crystal clear on the problem you’re solving so you and other leaders in the organization can communicate the problem effectively.
Train your leaders on how to best communicate the issue and evaluate their ability to do so. Trust and verify this can be done well. It may even mean the dreaded “role-play” technique is to be used. It’s better to deal with any nerves from leaders on the front end, rather than dealing with frustration from employees on the back end. Ensure leaders at all levels are supporting decisions and doing it correctly.
2- What is the solution to the problem?
Maybe you have a solution, maybe you don’t yet. Either way, it’s important to communicate where you’re at in the process and how you got there. Show your work. When you do that, employees will learn from your decision-making process, as well as increase their understanding of organizational initiatives which likely leads to higher engagement.
3- How do you want the employee to feel/not feel?
It’s important to note that for many people, their feelings drive their actions. This means that If employees feel decisions throughout the organization are not communicated well – whether they are or not in reality – then you can expect a negative effect on their performance. When exploring this question, consider how a certain feeling might affect employee performance and work backwards to take action to inspire the feeling/action you desire from the employee.
- Left Out
4- Can you trust your team with confidential information?
If you confidently can trust your team, this makes sharing information much easier. If you cannot, realize that it’s your job to weigh the risk of sharing information to gain engagement versus the negative repercussions of information being leaked.
5- How likely is it that someone on your team could hear the news from an outside source?
The “grapevine” and “water-cooler” are alive and well in the workplace today – even within organizations working remotely. Additionally, especially in small towns and tight-knit communities, news travels fast. With that in mind, even if the news unintentionally gets out, leaders must weigh the risk of not communicating right now versus a team member losing trust and engagement if they hear it from an outside source.
6- Why not tell them?
For some, having information that others don’t – makes them feel better or above other people…they like it! This should not be the case for leaders today. Make sure you’re not looking to check your ‘status box’ or placing your value in how much more information you have than others on your team. You could be doing yourself a huge disservice, potentially negatively impacting employees and throwing away the opportunity to gain greater insight, ideas, and engagement you wouldn’t have otherwise. As appropriate, share information. You may find that you become even more valuable that way!
7- Is there someone we should specifically leave out?
Rarely will the answer to this question be a yes. Typically, the only reason you’d list someone here is if there is a legal, moral, or ethical issue regarding the specific person and there is an investigation or something along those lines going on. Other than that, the answer to this question should show you just how many people you should be communicating with. As a leader in an organization, you are responsible for your entire organization. Be sure that you’re including everyone that should be included. Never pit one department against the other through dispensing or withholding information.
8- Who do I know that would like to be involved in this?
Make sure you and your leaders are very in-tune with evolving employee needs, wants, and goals. You might have an emerging leader looking for opportunities to learn and grow who would benefit from the information or a peek behind the decision-making curtain. Leaders are constantly looking to develop others.
9- Do I have a definite answer or decision?
You may be wondering when to begin the communication process. This is not black and white. Evaluate where you’re at today. Maybe you have a decision, and maybe you’re not there yet. That’s okay! Don’t miss the opportunity to share with your people what you’re exploring. They may give you insight, shed light on something you don’t know, uncover an unmet need they have, etc.
You must be careful not to share information you’re not allowed to share yet, of course. And you must be intentional about what levels of the organization have access to the information you’re privy to. Don’t share beyond your authority. If all of that is in check, don’t be hesitant to communicate with them where you’re at in the process, throughout the entire process.
10- What is the best way to deploy the information?
Depending on the magnitude of the decision, how you deploy information is key to avoiding communication issues.
For decisions that affect a large number of employees and/or the business, consider a large group meeting with immediate follow-up meetings with smaller teams for concerns to be addressed. Don’t leave time and room for incorrect assumptions and emotional overflow.
11- How successful was this communication strategy?
Very few leaders do a debrief post-decision. However, it’s key to learning and growing. Here are five questions to evaluate your decisions…and even the communication strategy you’re using!
- What did we do well?
- What did we do poorly?
- Who should be praised publicly?
- Who should be redirected privately?
- What must we change before the next time?
Eradicate Communication Issues
Communicating well is a skill. People are not born with skills, they develop them. In order to avoid dissension and division and invite encouragement and engagement, choose to develop your communication skills. It’s not difficult, but it does require discipline. The very best leaders are those who take action that others could – even should – but don’t. Will you choose to be among the best? It’s my hope that you do!
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