By Stephen Garber
Effective communication is a critical component of leadership across the board for all businesses, and its impact on business can mean the difference between failure and success for you, your teams, and your company.
Poor communication has been estimated to cost large businesses tens of millions of dollars every year. The annual cost to smaller companies is in the hundreds of thousands.
Some of the costs associated with poor communication are tangible:
• Missing deadlines
• Failure to deliver a product or service
• Lost productivity
• High employee turnover
• Loss of sales
• Collapse of negotiations or a business deal
• Poor customer service
Other costs may not be as obvious, but are just as destructive to the bottom line.
• Tension in the workplace
• A lack of trust and/or respect between employees, and between employees and management
• Missed opportunities
• Lack of discipline
• Loss of employee motivation
• A negative effect on innovation
Although effective communication isn’t an innate skill for everyone, it is something that can be learned—on both the individual and the corporate levels. Leaders win when they make communication a priority from the top down, providing regular opportunities for information to be shared in both directions between all levels of the organization. It’s not enough to assume employees know what’s going on or will be able to figure it out on their own. Nor is it realistic to assume employees will feel comfortable sharing information with colleagues and management, unless that is part of your culture.
One key to effective communication, often overlooked, is the ability to actively listen. “Power listening” is a set of skills individuals can develop to use for personal and professional reasons. It involves listening with all of the senses, and connecting with the emotions and values that underlie what the other person is saying. A power listener receives information neutrally, focusing on the speaker’s experience and point of view without the context of pre-conceived notions or judgment.
It improves sales. It improves management effectiveness. And it improves people’s lives.
The monetary cost of poor communication should be a reality check for every leader, manager and business owner. Fortunately, the challenge of poor communication can be tackled and the loss of revenue can be addressed. As with so many issues in the workplace, meeting the problem head-on with a commitment to long-term change will bring about cultural change, and, ultimately, success. ♦
Steve Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.