A Grammarly Harris Poll released in 2022 suggested that US businesses lose $1.2 trillion annually due to poor communications. Yes, you read that right, $1.2 trillion per year. This same study points to nearly three out of four business leaders admitting their teams struggled to communicate effectively over the last year. Almost 82% of leaders and 59% of employees cite remote and hybrid models, the new normal, as concerns for the future. Over 90% of leaders admit poor communication impacts productivity, growth, and morale, resulting in customer erosion. The new normal comes at a significant cost. We are just now beginning to scratch the surface of this cultural shift. Think about your own experience as a leader. Are you seeing similar trends emerge post-Covid in your organization?
Another study by Gallup in 2022 suggests that nearly 50% of the US workforce is "quiet quitting." While the "Great Resignation" saw a mass exodus from the workforce, "quiet quitting" refers to unengaged employees merely doing the minimum required due to psychological detachment from their job or employer. Gallup notes the rise in "quiet quitting" is directly related to a lack of clarity of expectations, opportunities for advancement and personal growth, lack of feeling cared about as an individual, and lack of connection by the employee to the overall mission and purpose of the organization.
A fundamental disconnect occurs between leaders and front-line teams, but here is a silver lining for leaders willing to embrace the importance of good communication. The same Gallup research indicates that it takes a 20% pay raise to lure employees away from a manager who engages them. This alone is reason enough to give communication more focus in your organization.
5 Key Traits of Effective Executive Communication
So, what is the purpose of executive communication, and what does it look like? Good communication builds trust, credibility, and engagement, promotes transparency, and ladders to organizational goal achievement. Several key factors contribute to successful communication from executives:
- Clarity: Communications should be straightforward, concise, and clear, avoiding jargon and confusion.
- Authenticity: Leaders should be genuine when expressing views, beliefs, and opinions versus parroting talking points and cliches.
- Empathy: Leaders should demonstrate an understanding of the concerns and perspectives of other team members.
- Consistency: Leaders should provide regular updates to ensure that messages align with the organization's goals and values.
- Accessibility: Leaders need to be accessible to employees and stakeholders, being available for questions and feedback.
Leaders who demonstrate these qualities build more substantial and collaborative relationships, trust, and alignment with their direct reports. All of which are important for achieving corporate goals and objectives.
As a consultant (and licensed counselor), I regularly experience the strides individuals and companies make when there is a communication plan in place that is consistent. I've also experienced the struggles individuals and organizations face when this needs to be improved. Poor communication creates an environment of ambiguity, uncertainty, and lack of clarity, challenging companies to meet overall organizational and team goals.
Communicating to Engage Your Team
Here are a few tips to help you stick to your script of good executive communication.
- Check-In: I like to start planning sessions and team meetings with a quick participant check-in. Two great questions are, "How are you feeling coming into today's meeting?" and "What do you hope to accomplish during our time together?" This sets an authentic and empathetic tone for the meeting. With consistency and time, trust and rapport among team members enhance. Gaging the tone or mood of the room helps the leader steer the conversations in the right direction, allowing the team to put their emotions on the table early and upfront. In the end, most final decisions made are emotional.
- Have an Agenda: Every meeting or conversation should have an agenda. At Rhythm, we coach clients to create an Objective Statement for each meeting and planning session. This ensures that meetings are productive and produce the desired outcome. Frustrating and unproductive meetings result from a lack of resolution or clarity regarding the next steps and action items to accomplish.
- Seek to Understand: The best means to understand each other is through "active listening." Active listening is a means of hearing and responding that facilitates mutual understanding between individuals. Meetings are full of necessary conversation, and each must understand the other's point of view, position, and struggles. The Grammarly Harris Poll revealed that nearly half of a 40-hour workweek is spent on written communication, increasing the risk of miscommunication and misinterpreting message intent. While technology helps us communicate more efficiently, the accuracy of message interpretation often needs to improve. This leads to the last point.
- Gain Clarity: A significant reason individuals or teams need help to achieve goals is the result of leaving planning sessions, meetings, or working sessions unclear about the expectation and role each plays in the overall achievement of initiatives. If we do the first three tips well, clarity falls into place. An excellent exercise to weave into every meeting is a final question. At Rhythm, we like using a "one word or one phrase close." It's not uncommon the hear words like "energized," "motivated," "confident," or "productive," for example. It's also not uncommon to hear words like "confused," "concerned," "frustrated," or "unsure." When the latter surfaces, more clarity is likely needed before ending the meeting or immediately offline.
With proper planning and cadence, sticking to your communications script is easy. There's power in consistency, process, and establishing a rhythm of communication and work. Embrace these simple tips to increase internal communications, and you will increase the probability of achieving company and team objectives.
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