Communication: the foundation of profitable businesses

Communication is paramount in business, and yet many managers give little thought to its importance. Are you one of those, asks Peter Hughes, or are you giving it the attention it deserves?

Communication: the foundation of profitable businesses
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Have you ever had your boss make a decision regarding your area of responsibility without informing or involving you?

As someone once put it more crudely: “Have you ever been treated like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed on manure?”

If not, consider yourself fortunate. I have, and I didn’t appreciate it. I know how it affected me and my level of respect for my boss and company, prompting me to leave as soon as possible.

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Effective, open communication between boss and employee is the foundation of successful and profitable businesses. It’s the pillar supporting the entire structure and the oil that keeps the business wheels turning.

Good communication leads to employee buy-in to the company’s vision and strategies.

It clarifies each person’s role, promotes alignment and a shared sense of purpose, boosts morale and engagement and fosters an efficient and productive work environment.

Furthermore, it cultivates a culture where employees feel comfortable expressing concerns or grievances, leading to a quick resolution of conflicts and encouraging the sharing of ideas for a more creative work environment.

Communication is crucial to business success, and yet many managers fail to give critical thought to its content, frequency, form and style.

Are you one of those managers who take it on the run, or are you giving it the attention it requires?

Here are some things to think about:

Planning it 

  • Have a clear objective: Before any pre-planned communication, take a few moments before to think through its purpose and the desired result.
  • Understand your audience: Tailor your message according to the listener/s and their likely response, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting or group.
  • Select the appropriate style: Consider the most effective way to handle the communication, whether it’s a one-way delivery, an open-ended interactive question-and-answer session, or something in between.
  • Repetition is key: Important matters bear repetition. Establish a follow-up plan and decide how often and when it should take place.
  • Include all concerned: There are few things that demotivate and upset people more than being left out of the communication loop.
  • Select the right location and setting: Ensure that the location and setting (formal or informal) complement the purpose and content of the communication.
  • Visual aids: Carefully select the visual aids that enhance understanding of the message. Avoid using busy small print slides that distract from your point.

Delivering it

  • Capture attention quickly: Open with a captivating story, quotation or shock statistic that immediately grabs attention.
  • Use simple language: Avoid senseless jargon and clichés like ‘ballpark’, ‘move the goalposts’, ‘think outside the box’ or ‘push the envelope’. Clear, straightforward language is more effective.
  • Avoid overused phrases: Shun overused and tired expressions like ‘at the end of the day’, or ‘at this moment in time’ that can hinder clear communication.
  • Use personal pronouns liberally: Use ‘you’ and ‘us’ instead of distancing language like ‘they’ and ‘them’.
  • Keep it short: Long meetings and lengthy monologues diminish attention. Keep sentences short and punchy.
  • Eliminate filler words and phrases: Cut filler words and phrases such as ‘you know’, ‘absolutely’, ‘like’, ‘needless to say’ and ‘in my humble opinion’ out of your vocabulary. They numb the minds of audiences.
  • Rehearse your communication: Before delivering a speech, test it with a trusted co-worker who will provide honest feedback.
  • Seek feedback: Gather feedback from selected members of your audience to gauge their level of understanding of your message.

Two-way process

Communication is a two-way process. It has a sender and a receiver. In ‘send’ mode, we assume the message has been received and understood.

However, in our complex society with numerous barriers to communication, this assumption is often wrong, and confusion results. When this happens, remember that the fault lies with the sender, not the receiver!

Peter Hughes is a business and management consultant.