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Funny, Unless It's Happening To You!

The “Who’s On First” Abbott & Costello classic is undoubtedly one of the funniest comedy sketches in history (for the younger generation, you may have seen the Late Night version) Watching the miscommunication between them and the frustration it causes just gets funnier and funnier but it doesn’t seem so humorous when you apply it to communication within an organization.

Whether a leader or a critical team member, we can all agree that communication in our companies significantly contributes to an employee’s experience, engagement, morale, and overall performance outcomes. Additionally, with the continued arrival of remote work and hybrid work schedules, we must find new means to build, manage and grow the communication channels that inspire a sustainably growing culture.

So, how do you design a communication culture that accomplishes the above?…below are 3 keys to establishing a winning formula:

1. Intentional, frequent and authentic - Employees often have little to no insight into what’s occurring within other departments. Because of this lack of communication, these teams appear to be operating as disparate companies. These silos can end up crushing productivity and ultimately stifle growth.

To avoid this pitfall, company and departmental/division leaders should share as much information with their teams as possible, including strategy planning, customer feedback, key data on financials, and any relevant challenges that may impact their role. Additionally, be real. Avoid using “corporate-speak” be genuine and share what you value in your communications. Employees desire, respect, and will follow authentic leadership.

One best practice is to schedule regular town hall meetings - this gives the opportunity to address what is going well, celebrate and recognize the team, as well as sharing future strategy plans, challenges to be aware of, and company scorecard updates.

2. Actively listen and encourage input from your team – In any communication transaction, there are two halves to the conversation. In the Abbott and Costello routine, there is an obvious disconnect in the intent, meaning, and interpretation of the dialogue. Neither asked the other any questions, asked for clarity and/or did not solicit any input. This is an all too regular occurrence and can be particularly dangerous when communicating with our teams.

In a 2019 Forbes article related to employee engagement, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Add the current dynamic of remote or hybrid workforces, and this becomes even more powerful and relevant to a healthy communication culture. The days of "one-way" communication from the top down are over as it provides no mechanism to voice concerns or share ideas. (See related blog: The Power of “Yes, And”) Positive communication culture is one in which employees always have a way to provide their feedback. One way to accomplish this is simply asking the team for their feedback. Allow people to air their concerns. Ask powerful questions that open the door to what people think and feel. And pay close, respectful attention to what is said — and what's left unsaid.

3. Deliver feedback and coaching – One way to ensure progressive improvement in your communication culture is by delivering consistent feedback and coaching to your teams. At Butler Street, we stress that feedback follows these 5 guidelines:

Remember, feedback includes BOTH praising good performance and offering constructive suggestions. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, top-performing teams give each other more than five positive comments for every one criticism. When providing constructive feedback to your team, make sure you empower your team to be part of the adjustments required and the foundation is inspirational. This provides the best opportunity for driving the most important outcomes, activities, and behaviors. It’s best to employ a structured, repeatable process for coaching, like Butler Street’s DASH coaching model.

Building a communication culture begins with a Leadership model that is structured and systematic throughout the organization. At Butler Street, our Leadership Development series focuses on tools and methodology to drive consistent and sustainable growth for both your people and your organizational outcomes. Contact us, we can help!


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