If you have been following along with our Relationship MiniSeries you’ve been down the TRACK with us from Trust and Respect to Appreciation and today to Communication.

Oh – such a big topic to handle in such a small space.

Well done communication energizes, informs, and enlivens people. Communication (verbal and non-verbal) is what creates ease in a relationship. It builds Trust, it shows Respect and it gives us a way to express Appreciation. It puts us on TRACK for a long lasting rich relationship.

Effective, positive communication is critical in building sustainable relationships. I often wonder why organizations don’t offer a course on effective communication the very first week someone is on the job. Imagine an organization that clearly understands the power of communicating frequently, clearly, and maybe even playfully. Awesome!

I find it interesting that one of the first things many new clients tell me about their organizations is: “We have a communication problem.” My response: “What is it about the communications that is the problem? Is there a problem with what is (or isn’t) communicated, how it’s communicated, how often it’s communicated, or to whom messages are communicated?”

Communication is a topic so wide and so vast there are entire degree programs devoted to its study – but for our purposes here, let’s look at some of the simple implications of using positive communication in your organization.

Good communication begins even before someone is hired. When you are planning to bring someone new into your company, consider, “What about our company do we want to communicate to the applicant?” “What’s really important for them to know before they make the choice to work here?” This is a good time to share the company’s values, standards, vision and mission, and the expectations you’ll have of the applicant if hired.

(Be sure to share that information towards the end of the interview, and not at the beginning. Why? When you say it up front it’s a little too easy for the applicant to tell you exactly what you want to hear.)

Communicating expectations is critical for success. If employees don’t know what you want, how can they deliver it? I’m always shocked at how many managers think an employee “ought to know” what’s expected of them without being told. (Sort of like how many people think their spouses “should just know” things that have never actually been said.) Employees consistently tell me they want clear expectations and a way to know whether or not they are living up to them.

Communicating the company’s mission and vision, along with the vital role an employee has in the scheme of organizational goals, is the key to aligning an organization and focusing energy. Especially today, people want to know how they make a difference to the success of the company. Leaders who make sure to let people know where they are relative to where they are going have a point of reference, a benchmark, for improvement. It’s powerful to feel part of a focused and aligned team.

Feedback is a form of communication that is essential to increasing performance. All too often in my career I’ve heard the lament, “How come they never notice me when I’m doing something right, but they always notice if I’ve done something wrong?” Ouch. Positive communication means looking for what’s going well and why and giving feedback on that too!

Practice finding your co-workers doing things right and give positive feedback three to five times more often that you give negative feedback. Communicating your pleasure more than your displeasure will get you more of the behavior you really want. (High performance companies deliver 5 times more positive than negative.)

Keep people in the loop, especially in times of rapid change. In the absence of real meaningful communication people fill the void by practicing “MSU” (Making Stuff Up). MSU destroys productivity as people spend their time sorting through the gossip, looking for the truth. Oh yeah, and be sure you’re telling the truth. In today’s transparent business world, you’ll be found out quickly enough if you’re not. Truth builds trust.

Draw a little communications map for your department – better yet, for your company. Who needs to know what information, when, how often, and in what form? The older the company, the more chance that there’s information produced that is no longer relevant to the business or put to use by anyone. Talk about a waste of precious time! Our Customer Care Coach® module on communication has a handy way of categorizing communications as Critical, Useful, Nice to know and NOVA – no obvious value added. You’d be amazed at how many communications – when rated by the receiver are designated as “NOVA”.

In today’s world we really need to learn the skill of communicating clearly, concisely and quickly.

When I am running a meeting with a time frame, especially if it’s on the phone, I ask people to bring their “best edited self” to the meeting. That’s shorthand for when I want someone to think about what they are saying and edit it before it comes out of their mouth. We all love a good story, but there are times when the details are distracting to the work at hand. (This is a skill I need to keep practicing myself, as you can see by my word count in this tip.)

And here’s one last thought on communication (I could go on but I won’t): “Open” communication is the name of the game as long as it’s done without blame, shame, judgment, cynicism or criticism (And maybe even without sarcasm).

Stop and really absorb that thought for a moment.

We can still give constructive feedback without any of the above. Devoid of judgment etc. the feedback has a chance of being heard for what it is – helpful.

If we all learned a style of “open” communication without any hint of blame or judgment, more people would listen and the world would be a nicer, more efficient place. Blame, judgment, criticism, embarrassment, and shame all cause the receiver to react defensively. This sends both parties down the rabbit hole drenched in adrenaline, cortisol and all the stress chemicals – which in turn shuts off the parts of the creative brain needed for resolution. Oh my.

I’ve taught hundreds and hundreds of people to pay attention to their old ways of communicating and open themselves up to more positive beneficial ways of saying what they want to communicate. When they stopped reacting and began responding they experienced more positive and more expansive results. They also reduced their stress.

PS – Did you know that only 7% of your communication comes from words? As important as words are we also communicate with our tone of voice and inflection and with our body language!

Here’s to clear communication!


PS There’s a wealth of information on communication in Level One of the Customer Care Coach® program.


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