Easy Fixin’: Communicate better

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By Bill Caswell

Special to Ontario Construction News

The formula to lose weight is easy: eat less. End of story. However, putting the recipe into play is never easy – as our current obesity epidemic attests.  

The formula to fix a company is easy, too: communicate better. End of story. However, putting the right recipe into play for effective connecting is not easy at all. Unfortunately, poor management of human group endeavors is the rule, rather than the exception. So, if communications is the answer to an improved business, perhaps we should look at details for an effective recipe.

The single greatest complaint we at Caswell Corporate Coaching Company (CCCC) hear from client-company employees, is: ‘lack of communications’, yet we all know how to communicate. This concern, as simple as it sounds, is the right analysis for the cause of most company failures. Lack of communications means the left hand does not always know what the right hand is doing. It leads to misunderstandings, operational screw-ups, subsequent resentments and a lack of cooperation. It prevents innovation; it results in a colossal waste of human power and money.  

Now let’s look at the basis of the repair recipe: the rowing team that cooperates better, that is more in synch, will win the race every time. So will the company that cooperates more, win. It is built in our social genes to cooperate, yet more often than not, humans choose not to cooperate. Therefore, the question is why is that so? It is due to resentment, unpleasant feelings, envy, and a thousand other like descriptors – all of them stemming from inadequate communications.

When you communicate adequately, not only do fewer things go wrong, humans feel more valued and increase their level of cooperation. It took the CCCC team nearly 10 years to understand this basic driver and another five years to put suitable remedies into play.  

The source of the remedy is also simple: Good intentions are not enough; therefore, systems have to be introduced to ensure good communications throughout an enterprise. Therein lies the rub.  

Better communications lead to a better work environment, better operations, and what should be no surprise, better profits.

What can you do to improve communications?  The more items you select from the communications’ shopping list below the better results your enterprise will achieve.  They are:

  • Hold weekly meetings of every small group (properly run meetings, of course);
  • Conduct monthly change-management meetings of eight or so individuals (selected on a 6-month rotating basis from everyone in the enterprise) where top management listens to the company’s jungle drums;
  • Have a working suggestion box system;
  • Give employee performance reviews every quarter;
  • Engage a few staff members to act as champions of your listening systems;
  • Train every new employee about the importance of your listening systems;
  • Conduct semi-annual planning (and listening) sessions involving as many people in the company as possible;
  • Engage in the use of action lists that work for all of the endeavors above;
  • Make the lines of reporting clear and simple;
  • Give each employee a weekly venue for knowing where they stand (Team-of-Two);
  • Set up teams to solve problems;
  • Solve problems right away;
  • Never trivialize the thoughts of any person in the company (that is, listen fully to everyone);
  • Ensure a safe environment so that even the most timid of employees will feel safe enough to express their concerns;
  • Establish an objective prioritizing system;
  • Develop an ambience that ensure tolerance of all personality types;
  • Establish a clear company mission so every individual in the enterprise is pointed in the same direction;
  • Set up accounting systems that communicate the finances responsibly, company wide;
  • Share (communicate) your financial details so that every person is enlisted to help make the financial results improve (and to demonstrate that management values employees’ contributions);
  • Decentralize branches so human initiative is maximized;
  • As soon as you have an idea, write it down so you won’t forget it
  • Measure your position on the Corporate Evolution Pyramid to get to, and stay at, the peak (Excellence); and
  • Conduct internal audits to measure how well you are communicating.

Even though we at CCCC think you should employ all the above ideas, you can start by picking and choosing whichever ones seem best for you.

Bill Caswell leads the Caswell Corporate Coaching Company (CCCC) in Ottawa, www.caswellccc.com or email bill@caswellccc.com.

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