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Practicing Communication

by Jim Paluch on March 22, 2013 · 0 comments

Everybody Communicates

Do you communicate on the most important subjects within your organization? We all know we should have conversations about improving performance, sales goals, marketing efforts, efficiencies and, probably at the top of the list, financial management issues. We know all these things are vitally important and yet the most important conversations are usually pushed aside, taking place as a haphazard meeting in the hallway or during the 15 minutes you can spare in your office while the phones are ringing and emails are coming in. We sometimes assume our team understands critical issues from a vague email we sent. Sometimes we may even choose the worst leadership tactic and avoid these conversations all together. Over the past 25 years, we at JP Horizons have been teaching companies how to communicate better and how to create a culture in which you can become incredibly effective at having those difficult conversations that make you most successful.

Look at the diagram to the right and see if it could symbolize your company. If not let me assure you of two things. One, this is what most owners wish they could have … operations, admin and sales all focused toward a common sense of purpose. Or, to use an old cliché: Everyone on the same page.   Everyone pointed in the same direction. Steven Covey called it having everybody “headed true north.” In our workshops or when working with new clients, I often ask, “What does this feel like?” If I am on my game, and we are having a productive meeting, I hear responses like … awesome, tremendous, rewarding, inspiring or fun. All of those great things are shouted out by the audience or a leadership team, and then comes the question, “If this is what it feels like when everyone and every department is focused on a common purpose, then why would it not be our number one focus as leaders to make sure it happens?”

The next question I often ask owners and leaders in a company is this: “Wouldn’t it make tremendous sense to be striving to have everybody pointing in the same direction?” If the reward for sharing a common purpose were only to help your team feel those feelings I just listed above, it would still make sense to dedicate a great deal of energy to communicating your company’s purpose with your team. The benefits of a team that is all heading in the same direction are far more than just happy team members. The most successful companies, the ones that make the most positive impact on their customers and have the healthiest bottom lines, are the companies that have a team of people who are all on the same page.

Practicing CommunicationUnfortunately, when I ask most owners and employees what the greatest weakness in an organization is, 9 times out of 10 they say the word . . . communication. This happens so often, and I sometimes laugh to myself, because it is said as if it is some giant breakthrough in leadership and organizational dynamics. But, the truth be known, everybody is saying the same thing … “We just don’t communicate.”

The fact is, however, that it’s not communication that is a problem. Communication is taking place all the time in the organization. The challenge is whether it is good, productive communication or bad, destructive communication. It is clear that the great leaders who produce the best results are those who at least have the presence of mind to be aware which end of the scale they are communicating on and taking the appropriate steps to make sure it is productive. As a leader, parent, friend, business owner, or spouse, you always want to have profitable communication.

What is the opposite of profitable communication?

If everyone is seeking the positive results from profitable communication made possible by each team member or family member being focused on a common purpose, then why do we find ourselves so often at the opposite end of the scale?  The problem is that in our haste to communicate, inspire, train or lead, we can very easily become ambiguous!  This is a high-brow term for bad communication.

Practicing CommunicationAmbiguity is not a word we commonly use, but it looks like the diagram to the right. Stop for a moment and focus on this diagram. Imagine, and unfortunately it might not take too much imagination, but imagine what the results, feelings, and frustrations are when our teams are represented by this diagram. If you look closely, you can find a bright spot or two, at least all three groups are heading upwards, in a positive direction. They feel as if they are doing a good job, but could excel if the other two would only do a better job, you know, “Get on the same page.” The other positive thing is there are still three groups in this picture; we have not lost anyone and with a little effort, there could be hope for better results.

When I ask the question, “How does ambiguity make you feel?” the answers most frequently heard are “How many more vacations days do I have this year?” “I wonder who I can sell my business to?” “I don’t want to answer the phone.” “We need to find some better people.” “It is hard to get out of bed.” Then we think all we need to do is attend a seminar or read a book. (Please know I am all in on reading books and attending seminars; new information fuels the journey to wisdom.) You may have witnessed your family, department or company cringe when they see you carrying around a new book. They know that before long a lecture series at the dinner table or fragmented presentation at the next company meeting is going to follow the completion of the book. Generally, when the information from the seminar or the next book is looked upon as the answer, the Holy Grail you have been seeking, it tends to drive more ambiguity into the organization. It is hard for everyone to look ahead and see the vision you are putting out to them when most are rolling their eyes and thinking here we go again. Remember, new information only fuels the journey; it does not create the destination.

The reality in business is there may not be another quarter, another year, another chance.  As leaders we must actively remove ambiguity and commit to enabling clarity at every opportunity if we are going to be around next year.

Practicing CommunicationStudy the diagram of clarity here. It looks exactly like the diagram for success. In business, clarity will always result in a successful outcome. Consider the responses from audiences when asked, “How do you know you have clarity in the organization?” The responses are always similar to “It is ENERGIZING.” “Results are happening.” “Ideas and solutions flow up, not just down.”  “People are growing.” “I am not afraid to look at my P&L,” etc. If those are the responses, then doesn’t it make sense for you and me to make sure we are communicating with more clarity and focus on the goals we are seeking to accomplish?

THERE IS ONLY ONE SOLUTION TO AMBIGUITY

It is not going to happen by simply reading one book, attending one seminar, or reading this one newsletter just like health and vitality will not be achieved just by going on a diet.  The only way to turn ambiguity into clarity is PRACTICE.  If, in the future, we want to achieve the desired results we are all so worthy of, then we must be willing to practice being clear in our communication today.

The JP Horizons team discovered this years ago when we started producing a training process for companies that they could initiate themselves based on the outlines and guidance they received from us online and through our phone coaching. Week after week, we would provide the topic and the template and they would provide the content as it related to their business. The results were inspiring. What we learned was it is not the information they received, but the improved interaction between departments and individuals that produced the most results. How did this improved interaction come about? PRACTICE. By having the discipline to meet each week, week after week in a productive and positive manner, they became better at communicating. This consistent practice produced the good communication that in turn gave the ability to lead, guide, and achieve positive results through clarity.

Practicing CommunicationThis early discovery based on observing the success of the “PRO Training Challenge” became the foundation for other successful solutions like the Working Smarter Training Challenge, the Owners Network, the Sales Jam and today provides the road map to “A BETTER WAY 2 LEARN FINANCIALS” and the other programs that will follow.

We all have the ability to communicate with clarity just like everyone is born with the ability to run a marathon, play an instrument or write a novel. What separates those with ability from those that get the results is that one was disciplined and willing to PRACTICE and the other was not.

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