Monday, February 6, 2017

How to Close Communication Gaps?

Communication gaps are caused by cognitive difference, ambiguous process, or management bottleneck.

Communication is the key to improve leadership effectiveness and modern management efficiency. However, communication is not just the soft discipline, it’s both art and science. For example, there are communication gaps between management and employees, there’s “lost in translation” syndrome in cross-functional conversations, there are all sorts of miscommunication at the different levels of the organization, how to close communication gaps and overcome such challenges?

  • Communication gaps decrease productivity, cause mistrust and decelerate business speed: From the top-down perspective, in many organizations, typically, one level of leadership communicates with the next level and so on and typically the message is somewhat diluted by the time it reaches the employee responsible for doing their job. Thus, employees do not understand their goals in a way that shows how they work with other employees’ goals and the strategic goals of their organization. There are disconnects between the business’s strategic goals and the individual’s working tasks and professional goals. No wonder there is a high ratio of employees doesn’t feel engaged in the work, lack of motivation to achieve more. The "so what" factor can be huge. From the bottom-up perspective, most often, you may not be able to accurately define the responsibilities, often your boss's goals get cascaded to you in a more detailed & quantifiable form. Add some administrative goals and team projects, but communication often does not happen to all from one. If people at the bottom and middle level don’t get the opportunity to understand the business’s strategic goals via effective communication, they would be easy to get lost and inundated with daily tasks which perhaps do not add enough value to both benefits the business as well as the employees’ well-being, they feel exhausted, bored and lack of achievement.

  • Communication gaps are caused by cognitive difference, ambiguous process, or management bottleneck: In the business, especially those strictly hierarchical large organizations with bureaucratic culture, there are too many power players or functional/process silos which cause communication bottlenecks and create gaps for cross-functional communication and collaboration. Miscommunication is also caused by perception gaps because people have a different knowledge base and cognitive understanding to articulate things. Even two people observe the same thing or participate in the same conversation, they could perceive the situation and convey the message differently. There are interpersonal communication, intrapersonal communication, and don’t forget the wise quote from the Drucker “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.”  -Peter Drucker

  • Communication effectiveness can be improved upon when the hard barriers are broken down and soft obstacles are overcome: It might need to first categorize what kind of communication bottlenecks existing and which communication gaps should be closed. There are hard communication barriers such as out of date processes, procedures, practices, or soft ones like culture, politics or leadership style, etc. Technically, communication can be broadly categorized into technology-based communication and communication based on direct human contact. For communicating shared goals, effective communicators are working to spread that throughout the organization in a diverse set of activities with mixed communication styles, and sometimes, they have to be fluent in multiple business dialects, with contextual intelligence; and keep communication flow with verification: Does the building of the shared goals happen at the leadership level or does it go deeper into the organization? If it is at the leadership level then what is the mechanism for communicating these shared goals and spread the message without “lost in translation.” Should you apply the Tell-Listen-Adapt communication framework? And are there any special steps that need to be taken to ensure consistency in message delivery. If you start with an inter-dependency of shared goals that directly related to creating value for an organization, you have a great foundation for then working on the process of how to make those goals a reality.

How to communicate just RIGHT is really critical to the business’s success and employees' engagement. There is no magic communication formula but pay more attention to communication content (what's your message), communication context (what will indicate to a different audience), and communication style (one to all, one to one., etc, direct vs. indirect., etc). The great communicators are the high-quality leaders or professionals who can communicate objectively with strong logic, clarity, and understanding; the great communicators are the great artists who are fluent in creative expression or metaphorical description. Communication is both art and science.


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