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Employee Communication: The Emperor Has No Skills

Posted by EmployeeChannel on 8.17.2017

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In a thoughtful e-book titled “The Top 10 Barriers Communicators Face,” the Grossman Group shares the ten most common barriers to effective communication that leaders construct. The e-book provides actionable tips about how to address the problem with executives.

As I read the e-book, it occurred to me there was one glaring omission, although it may be implied. I’m just going to go ahead and put it out there: many leaders stink at communication because they simply don’t have the skills. And effective communication is difficult, very difficult. Just open your favorite newsfeed and see who’s good at it and who’s not.

Compound this lack of skill with the fact that many of us don’t like to do what we’re not good at, and you end up with the responsibility for employee communication delegated to others. 

(Note: HR and internal communications teams are the experts, but they must have the commitment of leadership to the employee communication strategy and to each leader’s own effectiveness as a communicator.)

Communication is a little like breathing. We all do it every day, so we just assume everyone can do it, right? But not everyone does it well, and leaders must be good -- if not great -- at it.EC - The Emporer Has No Skills.png

Effective communication is a learned skill for most communicators, not an innate skill individuals simply have because… well, they’re leaders. We should guard against the assumption that executives have risen to positions of leadership because they were effective communicators. They may have gotten there for a host of reasons.

Leaders delegate employee communication for a myriad of reasons as the e-book suggests, but they may delegate the ownership of employee communication simply because they’re not good at it, which they may consciously (or unconsciously) understand. 

To be clear, leaders can delegate the execution of the employee communication strategy, but they cannot delegate the ownership.

Where to start as a leader…

  • Own the employee communication strategy, communication model, plan of execution, and key performance metrics.
  • Acknowledge that effective communication (written and oral) is a learned skill that requires personal focus, commitment, and discipline.
  • Commit to improving your communication skills and recognize you’re committing to a continuous improvement process.
  • Document your plan of record for employee communication, communicate your goals, and provide updates that measure performance against plan.
  • Measure your performance and understand the impact and effectiveness of your personal communication to employees.

Where to start if you’re in HR or internal communications…

Cautiously pass this along to a leader you respect and tell them that it comes from a guy in a leadership role who’s failed as often as he’s succeeded at employee communication, but wants us all to get better.

Topics: internal communications, employee communication

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