Research indicates that managers spend
somewhere between 50% - 80% of their total
time communicating in one way or the other.
This isn't surprising, since communication
is so critical to everything that goes on in
an organization. Without effective
communication there can be little or no
performance management, innovation,
understanding of clients, coordination of
effort, AND, without effective communication
it is difficult to manage the expectations
of those who are in a position to make
decisions about your fate.
It can also be said that
many managers do not communicate well, and
do not set an organizational climate where
communication within the organization is
managed effectively. This isn't surprising,
since a manager who communicates
ineffectively and does not encourage
effective organizational communication is
unlikely to hear about it. Poor
communication is self-sustaining, because it
eliminates an important "feedback loop".
Staff is loathe to "communicate" their
concerns about communication because they do
not perceive the manager as receptive. Both
staff and management play out a little
In short, you may be
fostering poor communication, and never know
it. You may see the symptoms, but unless you
are looking carefully, you may not identify
your own involvement in the problem. What
can you do about it?
Your Role in
communication, regardless of form, requires
First, all players must
have the appropriate skills and
understanding to communicate well.
Communication is not a simple process, and
many people simply do not have the required
depth of understanding of communication
organizational communication requires a
climate or culture that supports effective
communication. More specifically, this
climate involves trust, openness,
reinforcement of good communication
practices, and shared responsibility for
making communication effective.
communication requires attention. It doesn't
just happen, but develops as a result of an
intentional effort on the part of management
and staff. Too often, communication, whether
it is good or bad, is taken for granted.
We can define your role
in improving communication with respect to
each of these. First, if you want to improve
communication, you will need to ensure that
you and staff have the skills and knowledge
necessary to communicate effectively. This
may mean formal training is in order, or it
may mean that you coach staff and provide
feedback so that they can improve.
Second, you play a
critical role in fostering and nurturing a
climate that is characterized by open
communication. Without this climate, all the
skills in the world will be wasted.
Finally, you must bring
communication to the forefront of
organization attention. If you make the
effort to improve communication, your staff
will recognize that it is important. If you
ignore it, so will staff.
feedback about your own communication,
and communication within the
organization. Ask staff questions like:
• When we talk, are you generally clear
about what I am saying?
• Do you think we communicate well
• Have you got any ideas about how we
could communicate better?
Consider including these questions (or
similar ones) in your performance
management process, or staff meetings.
Assess your own
communication knowledge and
(See self-assessment instrument on Page
5-sorry, not available online).
Working with your
staff, define how you should communicate
in the organization. Develop consensus
• How disagreements should be handled.
• How horizontal communication should
work (staff to staff).
• How vertical communication should work
(manager to staff, staff to manager).
• What information should be available
Once consensus is reached, support the
achievement of these goals through
positive reinforcement and coaching.
Look at the impact of
the structure of your organization and
how it impacts on communication.
Indirect communication (communication
that is transferred from person to
person) is notorious for causing
problems. Look at increasing direct
communication where the person with the
message to send does it directly with
Learn about, and use
active listening techniques. This will
set a tone and contribute to a positive
communication climate. If you don't know
what active listening is, find out. It's
a communications audit. (See sidebar)
We only have space to
give you a few tips, and communication is a
very complex process. We suggest that you
take the communication self-assessment
checklist on the following page, to assess
your own understanding and application of
If you would like to
increase awareness and attention to
communication, consider copying the
self-assessment checklist and distribute it
Suggest that they
complete it for their own use, and follow it
up by discussing organizational
communication in a staff meeting.
Be aware that exploring
communication patterns and effectiveness can
bring to the surface a number of resentments
and perceptions. If you aren't prepared to
deal with these, it is best to look to an
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