Do you and your employees sometimes have trouble understanding each other? Is your company wasting time and money due to communication breakdowns and costly mistakes? Miscommunications and misunderstandings cost companies 37 billion dollars a year, which is reflected in decreased productivity, missed deadlines, unhappy employees, and increased turnover, all of which impact the bottom line.
In today’s business world of do more/faster/better with less, communication is no longer just the soft skill we once thought it was. It’s now the most essential and often unrecognized factor in strengthening business relationships and increasing productivity and profitability.
The following three tips will show you how to transform poor communication into clear, whether in simple, everyday interactions or during major projects, whether communicating with fellow team members or across teams.
1. Really Listen
Have you ever felt like you were talking to someone at work and they weren’t listening to you? Why do you think you felt that way? Because they weren’t listening to you! We don’t listen 75 percent of the time!
To improve our listening, we first need to be aware of how often we’re not. Instead, we’re preoccupied or distracted and thinking about something else. I challenge you, through the course of the day, no matter who you’re talking to, to notice how often you tune out while someone else is talking and start thinking about what you want for dinner or your to-do list or whatever it might be. The moment you catch yourself, pull yourself back into the conversation, re-engage, and make a conscious effort to focus on the other person and what they’re saying. The more you become aware of it, the quicker you’ll be able to correct it.
2. Ask Questions for Clarification
Have you ever thought somebody understood you and it turned out they didn’t understand you at all? We frequently train someone at work, showing them how to do something or explaining a policy or procedure – we communicate it to them. We assume they got it and understood it and so we leave, but they didn’t get it at all. We don’t even realize it until we see they aren’t performing their job correctly and things start falling apart.
We need to check for understanding, and we do this by asking questions to make sure the message was received. We need to do this as both the sender and the receiver – to be responsible for both sides of the communication. So, if we explained something to someone, we need to ask them questions to make sure they understood it. And if someone else explained something to us, we need to ask them questions to make sure we understood them.
3. Show Employees They’re Valued
According to a Gallup Poll, the number one reason why people quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued or appreciated, and one reason they don’t feel valued or appreciated is because they don’t feel heard.
Are you making decisions or changes that impact your employees without first soliciting input from them? When you do this, they may not understand the purpose for the change, and they may not feel valued or appreciated. It’s of primary importance to involve employees in the decision-making process, especially if a decision will impact their job.
Show employees you value them by soliciting their input and really listening to it. In addition, make sure you’re praising them for a job well done. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. We can praise our coworkers, supervisors, and subordinates. Let them know their work and input is valuable and appreciated! When we communicate clearly, employees feel valued, are less likely to misunderstand and make mistakes, care more about the outcome, and increase their productivity, all of which impacts the bottom line.
Dr. Patty Malone has helped a number of companies dissolve communication barriers across teams, transform conflict into cooperation, and effectively handle difficult employees.