Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Advantage, tells us of four disciplines that healthy organizations have. When an organization possesses these four disciplines, they also have a business advantage:
- Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
- Discipline 2: Create Clarity
- Discipline 3: Overcommunicate Clarity
- Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity
Here are common communication mistakes that leaders make.
Thinking once is enough.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, I’ve already told them!”
Our job as leaders is to repeat and repeat until we know the message has been understood.
Not understanding the communication process.
Too many leaders (and I see this in teachers, too!) feel their job is to give out information.
They see that their employees’ (or students’) job is to receive, understand and implement the message.
These leaders abdicate responsibility for making sure their message is clear enough for people to follow it.
Set direction and not reminding people on a regular basis of that direction.
Don’t we all have that experience of taking a long family car trip and growing weary of the incessant question: When will we be there?
Kids of all ages want to be reminded of where we are headed, how far we have gone and when will we arrive at our destination.
Feel repeating a message is wasteful and inefficient.
“How many times do I have to tell you to shut the refrigerator door?”
It is easy to become impatient and expect compliance immediately.
But to get people from not doing to proficiency requires a lot of teaching and holding folks accountable for their actions.
Feel repeating a message is insulting to employees.
There are some people that seem to get it like the Energizer Bunny: first time, every time and they don’t stop until the job is done.
For rest of us, we need friendly reminders to keep us from being distracted by other items.
Not understanding that employees want to be reminded. Really!
When folks hear the same message over time, guess what?
Hearing a consistent message establishes a view of their organization’s leadership as authentic and committed to the organization’s goals.
Getting bored of repeating the message.
The late Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart Stores, was a marvel at repeating the same message.
Sam said his favorite part of the job was to fly into town and go straight into the backroom of a Walmart store with a big box of donuts. He loved to tell the Walmart associates the Walmart message, day after day.
How can we avoid these common communication mistakes, and perhaps have some fun in the process?
Lencioni tell us to use cascading communication, which has three key factors:
- Message consistency from one leader to another
- Timely delivery
- Real-time face-to-face communication.
After making a group decision and before leaving a meeting, make sure that all leaders are prepared to deliver the same message.
This consistent message is often referred to as talking points, five or less elements to be communicated to each team.
Without message consistency team leaders can filter the results of the meeting through their experience and value system and end up in different places, but thinking they are all on the same page.
ASAP, as soon as possible, is important. Information or misinformation in our social media age can be disseminated with lightning speed.
Waiting for more than 24 hours to let team members know about vital decisions may result in having to put out communication misfires or wildfires.
Which makes the third key factor increase in importance.
Real-time Face-to-face Communication
Cascading communication requires a way to create an immediate feedback loop that focuses clarity.
Lencioni recommends that we communicate to our entire group instead of trying to tell people one-on-one.
Video conferencing may be necessary in some situations and offers the ability for participants to ask questions and leaders to fill in the inevitable gaps in information.
These tips on how to avoid communication mistakes and how to overcommunicate clarity may seem basic and commonsense.
Unfortunately, organizations struggle because they don’t focus on the basics.
Implementing the basics requires persistence, discipline and follow through. This work may not be glamorous or require a high IQ, but it is work that sustains a healthy organization, much to your advantage.
Overcommunicate clarity by offering a consistent message throughout your organization, by delivering messages in a timely manner, and by creating an immediate feedback loop with real-time face-to-face communications.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, pages 140 to 151.
by Patrick Lencioni
By John Huey