Much of our workday is spent communicating with people by leading meetings, talking to customers, solving problems, leading your team in projects, providing updates to the team and/or organization, and discussing employee performance issues. I’ve often referred to communication as the “life-blood” of an organization. Clear communication is imperative for leaders. “Good communication is an important skill in any environment with human interactions. However, when it comes to communication in the workplace, good communication is an integral element to business success” (Bosworth, 2019).
Though communication is a multi-faceted topic (as seen in the diagram below) there are two aspects that are extremely important in the business environment 1) selecting the right method of communication and channel, and 2) enabling the feedback loop.
When considering the method and channel of communication that a leader uses when delivering a message, it is important to understand how people receive messages. According to the literature on communication, words carry the least value in a message. Consider the following:
- Words account for only 7% of the message.
- Voice inflection accounts for 38%.
- Body language accounts for an astounding 55%. (Philippine Business School, 2019)
Understanding these facts about messaging is critical to the communication process. The first part of the process described in the diagram is deciding on what message to communicate and the importance of the message. This will help you determine what method of communication should be used. As shown in box 2, you need to ask yourself, “Should I send an e-mail, or make a phone call, or have a face-to-face meeting to communicate the message?” Each of these channels of communication have different impacts on how the message will be received. For example, an e-mail will only have words to convey the message, while a face-to-face meeting will allow the person receiving the message to hear the words and voice inflection and see the body language. All forms of communication serve a purpose; however, they are not all received equally so be conscious that if you have an important message that must be fully understood, you may want to choose a channel that provides for a richer exchange of information.
The second aspect of communication, as illustrated in boxes 3 through 5, is reflective of a feedback loop ensuring that the message is received as intended. As shown in box 3, a verbal message may be degraded/distorted due to internal and/or external noise. For example, the intended receiver may be distracted due to thoughts about something that happened at home prior to coming to work or other work priorities which contribute to not receiving the message as intended. Can you think of a time when that happened to you? I know it has to me.
Feedback is the process of determining if the message has been properly received. In boxes 4 and 5, we see this can be initiated by the sender or receiver. I have seen numerous instances where failure to initiate the feedback loop resulted in miscommunication. I can remember communicating a message to a group of employees and walking out of the meeting thinking I did a good job only to later find out that they did not interpret the message as I intended. I should have asked for feedback to ensure they received the message as intended. I have seen the same thing with various clients. Simply taking the time to confirm that the message was received as intended would have saved a significant amount of time and frustration for all involved.
There are four ways a person can provide feedback about a message: paraphrasing, summarizing, reflecting emotions, and reflecting on the meaning. There isn’t an absolute rule on when to use each of these feedback tools so each person will need to evaluate and choose the best option for their message. The first two tools are common, and you probably have used them. Paraphrasing is reciting back what the other person said in your own words. Summarizing involves making a brief statement of the key points and feelings expressed by the other person.
The next two tools you may not have experience using but are important, especially when a topic can be emotionally charged. Reflecting Emotions emphasizes the emotions behind the message, more than the message itself. Reflecting on the Meaning focuses on identifying the meaning being expressed by the other person. On occasion, a person says one thing but implies something else.
Choosing the best channel for a message and utilizing the feedback loop can help you be a more effective leader, and help your organization achieve its mission more efficiently. “Communication is integral to sales, client relationships, team development, company culture, employee engagement and buy-in, and innovative thought” (Bosworth, 2019). Take the time to consider your audience, how you plan to deliver your message, and seek feedback to make your communication was received as intended. If you do these two things consistently, you’ll have a happier team!
Bosworth, P. (15 August 2019). The Power of Good Communication in the Workplace. Retrieved 18 November 2019, from: https://leadershipchoice.com/power-good-communication-workplace/#:~:targetText=Communication can improve employee engagement, motivates, and fulfills the employee. &targetText=Ability to cultivate talents and, in line with company goals.
Philippine Business School, Effective Communication is 55% Body Language, 18 February 2019, Retrieved 2 December 2019, from: https://phbusinessschool.com/effective-communication-is-55-body-language/. Numerous cites attribute these stats to UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian.
For the Faith-based:
Jesus was a Great Communicator who revealed many important principles regarding communication. James 1:19 says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…” Communication downfalls happen when these three keys are overlooked. When we follow His teachings, we are stronger communicators. In order to have clear communication, the speaker must know his/her message and determine the best method to communicate it.
Today, there are many different channels for sharing a message, but perhaps the best way is to communicate in person. You can see in the Bible where Jesus gathered his Disciples to deliver important messages in person. He didn’t write down and hand out the message about how he was going to be betrayed. He waited until he had all his disciples around him and delivered that message in person during the last supper, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me,” John 13:21.
Jesus was also a practitioner of the communication or feedback cycle. The Parable of the Weeds is a good example of utilizing this aspect of clear communication. In Matthew 13:24-41, Jesus tells the parable in which the good wheat grain has been contaminated by an enemy who sowed weeds among the wheat during the night. After Jesus is done with the parable his disciples ask Him what the parable meant and Jesus explains the meaning of the parable in another manner helping the disciples to get the message as he intended. This is a good example of ensuring your message is received by engaging in a communication loop.
Good communication is important. Believers should constantly examine their communication and take into account how to treat one another. Our words are a reflection of ourselves. “The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just,” Psalm 37:30.