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I was in a meeting in a few weeks ago when this question was asked: “Why might this project fail?”  My friend Brad responded, “The same reason most projects fail. Communication, communication, communication.”  

We have more ways to communicate than ever before, yet we don’t seem to be making progress in communicating more effectively. Some of the reasons for that:

  • Our expectations are higher
  • We’re surrounded by “noise”
  • We only hear what we want to hear
  • We’re not communicating clearly

Employees want communication about:

  • Their roles: what is expected of them today, tomorrow, and in the future.
  • The stability and safety of their roles and the organization as a whole.
  • The mission and purpose of the organization and how they connect to it.

For better or worse, when communicated to, most of us think first, “what’s in it for me?”  So, when change occurs, promotions are made, or people join or leave the organization, we look for the impact on our role, our expectations, and how we connect to the organization. As leaders, we should ensure that our communications address this.

A change for leaders, then, is to ask ourselves:

  • Does this communication align with our values?  One of Purple Ink’s values is positivity, so even if I have a message to share that might be difficult, I explain why and how it can be positive or position us for future positive expectations.
  • Do we have a clear direction and are we communicating what that is?  If not, employees will make their own assumptions.
  • Have we communicated the information multiple times in multiple formats?   Don’t assume that they saw it, heard it, and/or grasped it completely.  They may need to hear it in a different way, from a different person, visually, or in writing.
  • Will the communication allow employees to understand what’s in it for them?  Share as much as you can about how it will impact products, teams, locations, etc. If you’re not sure, it’s okay to tell them that you don’t know yet.
  • Does the message reflect security for individuals and the organization?  is it good, scary, or hopeful news?  Even if it’s bad news, they will appreciate the transparency.

How often should we communicate?

The rule of seven is one of the oldest concepts in marketing. … The rule of seven simply says that the prospective buyer should hear or see the marketing message at least seven times before they buy it from you.

(TutorialsPoint)

Assume this rule is the same for all communication!  What might seem like overkill from a leader can still seem like new information to an employee.  It took me a while – ok, a long time – to realize this.  As an HR Director, if I was working on a new initiative or rolling out a new policy, I would forget how long I had worked on it, researched it, talked to others, and thought about how best to communicate, so in my head it was engrained, it was complete, it was right.  My expectation, then, was that everyone would be ready to go, adopt it immediately, and it would be smooth sailing thereafter. I was frustrated to hear later comments like, “I didn’t hear anything about it,” “when did that come out?” and “why wasn’t this communicated?”.  In my mind, it was perfect, but they needed to hear it 7 times.

Communicate before, during, and after.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

(George Bernard Shaw)

Do you or your employees need guidance on communicating more effectively? Purple Ink has several workshops about communication, and we even offer communication skills coaching. Reach out to us – we’d be happy to discuss the best solution for you and your team.  

JoDee Curtis
JoDee Curtis
JoDee Curtis is the Founder of Purple Ink and the ink pad, author of JoyPowered®: Intentionally Creating an Inspired Workspace, co-author of The JoyPowered® Family, and co-host of The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast. JoDee has a passion for helping organizations and individuals discover their talents and do more or what they do well!

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