4 Strategies to Curb Communication Breakdowns

They say that the only sure thing about communication is that we tend to get it wrong.

If communication between two family members is a challenge, how much harder is communication at work? Have you ever experienced a team “fail” like this?

  • After meetings, people don’t seem to know what was said or what’s coming next. It’s like the meeting never occurred.
  • After training on a new procedure, only one person recalls the protocol.
  • Following a brainstorming session, everyone assumes someone else is covering the “next step.” The ball is dropped, resulting in blame, disillusionment, and embarrassment.

Make Your Messages Stick

Everyone knows communication is critical to success.

To run a thriving business, employees, managers, and CEOs need to communicate clearly and effectively. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of short circuits in this process, which can result in angry employees, difficult HR situations, and lost profit.

What can you do to improve team communication? Here are a few suggestions from some of today’s best leaders:

1. Kick Silo Doors Open

Many teams work well together but fail to communicate with the larger organization.

Communication silos occur when people in different departments don’t collaborate or connect to the bigger company vision. Enon Landenberg, founder and CEO of tech consulting company sFBI, says this is common:

“It’s very possible for departments to focus too much on their own work and miss out on the big ideas that only come from collaboration,” Landenberg said. “Egos [can prevent] honest discussions about the quality of work, necessary improvements and fresh ideas.”

To avoid this problem, send weekly briefings to the entire company and regularly schedule time for divisions or leaders to connect on projects, questions, or suggestions.

2. Limit Email Communication

When employees receive too many emails, they will start forgetting and ignoring the information they receive.

According to Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of APPrise Mobile, urgent messages should always be relayed by phone or in person. And when it comes to email conversations, Corbin says this:

“[I follow] the three-email rule: After three messages, we talk.”

Simplify not only the amount of email but the language you use. When technical jargon abounds, you increase the chance for errors because people can’t understand you!

3. Squash the Gossip

News travels quickly, especially if it’s bad.

Some rumors are just silly, but many contain an exaggerated seed of truth. Managers should address issues head-on rather than mopping up messes later. Even if you can’t share all the details, giving people a snapshot of the situation will build confidence and quiet dissension.

4. Lead Engaging Meetings

When people fail to listen, their minds are probably elsewhere.

The burden of communication is yours, so make meetings concise and engaging. Share the purpose of a meeting immediately, and conclude with assignments and action steps. Train managers to share only the most essential information and to use stories to illustrate a point. (e.g. “Yesterday, I got a phone call from our largest shareholder, and guess what they said?”)

Megachurch pastor Craig Groeschel says this:

“Work to keep your meetings small and your communication large. Too many [leaders] make the mistake of including too many people in too many meetings. The purpose of the meeting determines its size and . . . [it is important to] keep the discussion moving. Maintain a sense of polite urgency, pushing hard enough to keep the meeting moving but not so hard that discussion and decision-making is rushed.”

Eliminating miscommunication can head off a whole host of problems, so be intentional and make improvements each day!

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5 Meeting Rules You’ll Actually Want to Adopt.

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Are meetings something that you would consider magical at your organization? No? Why not? Aren’t meetings a place to collaborate, share ideas, dream big dreams and then make things happen?

Few business people would describe meetings using terms like actionable, positive, critical and focused . . . yet those are the terms that help define success in moving the organization forward.

Communication methods are imperfect as a whole. While you can create a business plan via a series of emails, it’s inefficient and the plan will often lack creativity. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Team meetings are the ideal way to build energy and enthusiasm for a new idea and generate actionable outcomes, but without the proper structure, even these meetings can be considered wasted time.

Here are 5 rules that will help keep your meetings on pace, on target, and provide you with the successful outcomes that you need from your time together.

1. Start With An Agenda

No, you shouldn’t begin with ‘What will it take to fill an hour of team meeting time this week?’, because if that’s your first thought then you’re already sunk. Request that team members send agenda items at least 24 hours before the meeting time and consolidate them to form your agenda. Keep in mind the flow of topics, and be sure you’re leaving time for strategic conversations. Leave items that may fall into deep tactical minutiae to the end of your agenda.

2. Plan for Takeaways 

Consider the consensus that you’re attempting to build with your meeting, or what your takeaway should be. Perhaps you need someone to volunteer for a new project, or you just need to inform a group about a direction that will impact their work. If you feel that there may be some pushback to your ideas within the room, look for a partner who will be in the meeting who can help support your point. If an item that was on your agenda doesn’t have a clear actionable, add it to a parking lot for a later date.

3. Keep Time Sacred 

Time is money, and never is that more true than when you have 3-15 individuals in a room together meeting without a timeline or agenda. Based on your agenda, break down how long each portion of the conversation should take and allot time accordingly. If your meeting should only need 23 minutes, then schedule that much time — perhaps plus a few minutes extra. Be a stickler about keeping conversations in check and moving the agenda along to hit key points in your list.

4. Consider a Drive-By 

Just need to chat with a few people about a simple topic? Instead of finding space and time for a full-fledged meeting, consider a 5-minute drive-by or stand up meeting. Grab a few people and huddle around a desk or common area, hash through your questions or concerns and let everyone get back to their day. In the same amount of time that you might take to walk and get a cup of coffee, you’ve made a decision, kept others updated on important points, and reduced the overall inefficiency of the day. The time for small talk can be over lunch; use these drive-bys to distill your ideas into the length of an elevator pitch. This may be uncomfortable for some people as it requires checking your ego at the door, but teams that are able to adopt these policies can become much more agile.

5. Keep it Moving

Always focus on the end result and what you need to keep your projects moving. This could be anything from an approval by a superior, someone agreeing to take on a task, or even consensus that you’re heading in the right direction. Capture takeaways and next steps, and most importantly — the name of the responsible party and when the result should be delivered. This will keep your meetings on task and team focused.

The word ‘meeting’ doesn’t have to be a negative concept. Instead, use these 5 meeting rules to adopt a culture of forward motion, positivity, and respect within the organization that will drive success both now and in the future. This isn’t a one-time change to how you approach meetings, but an organization-wide initiative to take back your time and productivity.

 


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