Crucial Conversations: Building a Culture of Effective Communication

From engaging the workforce to recruiting and retaining top talent, today’s leader must use all the tools available to not only ensure high-level productivity from team members, but also maintain a sustained level of organizational success. However, there might be one tool missing from a majority of leaders’ toolbelts that could hinder those goals: effective communication. According to a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Interact, 91% of employees say communication issues can drag down executives, yet 69% of employers feel uncomfortable communicating with their workforce.

As more employees correlate communication with overall leadership effectiveness, leaders must continue to advance their communication skills to have difficult, yet crucial conversations and to build a strong culture of open communication within the organization. Effective communication is key in recruiting, retaining, and engaging a productive workforce.

Communicate Recognition

Giving employee recognition is one of the quickest ways to build engagement and fulfillment for your staff; however, this is one area that leaders struggle with. According to the Harris Poll, 63% of employees say that not recognizing employee achievements inhibits effective leadership. Moreover, 65% of employees feel they haven’t received recognition in the past year. Because communicating recognition is an integral part in building employee job satisfaction, it’s imperative for leadership to help close the gap and create a culture of recognition.

Communicating recognition one-on-one and in front of peers is a great way to build trust and rapport among employees. If your team knows how much you appreciate their hard work, they will be more open to receiving feedback and constructive criticism in the future.

Encourage Employee Feedback

The most effective leaders are those who are aware of their blind spots. And when it comes to connecting with employees, an empathetic leader is one who is vulnerable and honest about areas needing improvement. The best way to create this dynamic between you and your team is to welcome feedback from your employees. However, according to the same Harris Poll, 20% of leaders are uncomfortable demonstrating vulnerability.

Leaders must understand that admitting mistakes and showing a human side is not a weakness but is actually seen as a strength. Empowering your staff to offer constructive feedback and speak honestly about their concerns with you allows a level of trust and respect otherwise unattainable.

Communicate Criticism with Care

Building trust and mutual respect with employees will help set the foundation with your team members to have difficult conversations. When your employees feel appreciated and heard, they will be more likely to hear and receive criticism well. However, it is important to empathize with your employee and try to put yourself in their shoes to understand how they feel in the moment. They deserve to know the whole truth and receive next steps, so they can grow from the feedback. Keep these tips in mind when giving constructive criticism or reprimanding an employee.

  • Be Direct – don’t be passive or avoid areas of discussion; be straight forward.
  • Be Specific – don’t be vague; point out specific events/examples/etc.
  • Be Careful with Your Words – don’t assume they won’t read into what you’re saying; be honest and choose your words and language carefully.
  • Be Aware of Your Body Language – don’t ignore how your body language is perceived; most communication is non-verbal, so show care and concern with welcoming gestures.
  • Be Caring – don’t criticize out of anger; communicate your care and concern for the employee and that you want him or her to succeed.
  • Be Optimistic – don’t expect failure; encourage your employee with action items to work toward a more successful outcome in the future.

When leaders make employees feel appreciated, heard, respected, and cared for, they are more likely to build a team of engaged, productive workers who are not only more connected with their work, but also more connected to their peers and leaders.

Building a Culture of Effective Communication

Cultures are the values and behaviors a group of people accept as their own; and building a culture of openness and effective communication starts with the leader. Leaders must lead by example and demonstrate open communication, how it benefits the organization, and why empowering one another to have crucial conversations is imperative to the overall success of the company and individuals. Building a culture of effective communication starts with showing recognition and care and ends with a highly motivated and positive working environment.

How do you create a culture of effective communication? What do you do to have successful conversations? Let us know in the comments section below!

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