Key Elements of an Effective Internal Communication System

Key Elements of an Effective Internal Communication System

Introduction

Your business is a body and communication is the blood that carries oxygen through the system making it survive and thrive. There are two types of blood: good clean haemoglobin that allows oxygen to move quickly, and dirty toxic blood that causes illness, disease and eventually death. 

Successful people and companies understand just how important effective communication is to the effectiveness of them and their enterprise. They can see where there is poor communication and they remove all the obstacles allowing the clear flow once again. Before we can correct poor communication, we must be capable of recognising and identifying poor communication.

Encourage sharing, input and dialogue

Successful companies all encourage two-way communication. We have two ears and one mouth. Successful communicators listen twice as much. This allows them to fully understand before commenting. Communication flows both ways from a sender to a receiver and back. If it is only going one way, it is not communication – it is instructing. Below is what happens when we instruct without listening properly:

Steven Covey gives the example of an arrogant naval commander, trumped up by his rank, who fails to listen:

Two battleships were at sea on manoeuvres in heavy weather. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. 

The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.

The lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then communicated with the ship: “we are on a collision course; advise you change course 20 degrees.”

Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”

The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”

“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees.”

By now time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”

Back came the flashing light, “Suggest you change course, I’m a lighthouse.”

We changed course.”

Four Communication Rules

During my career, I developed four communication principles that serve me well:

 

  1. The “no surprise” rule. Staff have to bring sensitive and in particular negative news to me as quickly as possible so we could deal with it. I didn’t want a matter to fester and worsen simply because staff were concerned about brining me “bad” news. A mini-crisis is easier to deal with than a full-blown catastrophe.
  2. The “don’t kill the messenger” rule. When a staff member brought negative feedback or even personal criticism to my attention, I thanked them. I always believe that knowledge is strength irrespective of whether it is good or bad. If you kill the messenger who brings bad news, you will eventually have a company full of staff who know what’s going on whilst you do not. You become the Emperor with no clothes and you encourage “group-think”, a dangerous condition where everyone agrees to avoid conflict. Being out of touch is never a good position for a manager. And I believe criticism is an opportunity to grow and improve. Positive feedback reinforces the fact that we are progressing according to our goals. Negative feedback is a chance to develop character and skills.
  3. The “are you part of the problem or part of the solution” rule. If a staff member approached me with a problem, they needed to have given it some thought and come to an informed opinion as to how it might be resolved. In this way we empower staff to become active problem solvers. Staff learn to resolve problems at the first opportunity and lowest possible level, rather than simply escalating everything up me. Succesful organisations build excellence into their DNA by recognising it and sorting out deviances form it. Excellence can’t only reside in the corner office.
  4. The “facts are more important than opinions” rule. Give me the facts no matter how miserable. We can work with the truth; we cannot work with opinions. Know the difference between a fact and an opinion: a fact is “the game of rugby originated at Rugby College in England”, an opinion is, “I prefer rugby to soccer”.

Jim Collins explains the Stockdale Paradox the need to balance realism with optimism. Stockdale commented, “you must address the harsh brutal reality without giving up hope.

Business consultant Paarl
Communication is the lifeblood of your Organisation

Communication is the lifeblood of your Organisation

Communication creates Communities

Communication is the life-force of efficient and effective social groupings. Where it flows, we thrive. Where it dries up, we wither. It’s that simple. From family and friends, through sports teams and orchestras, to businesses and countries – communication either enhances or destroys. Take stock regularly of all your relationships and the role communication plays in them.

Some years ago, after a delightful dinner in Graaff-Reinet, I ordered a Cappuccino. The eager-to-please waitress sped off with purpose into the back-end of the kitchen returning with a tray heavily laden with a steaming tea pot, cup, sugar bowl and milk jug”. “This is wonderful thank you, but how did we get to here?” In faltering English, she proudly replied smiling, “you asked for a cup of tea NOU”.

Even our best attempts go horribly awry. Now imagine communicating during a crisis to a deeply concerned and confused group of staff from different geographies, language, culture, race, religion and gender? You just have to get it right. Communication is important, proper communication is critical.

In around 30BC (Before Corona), I discovered that a number of staff resigned shortly after being on maternity leave. Their exit interviews indicated a pattern; spending months away from the workplace led them to feel disconnected and isolated, while many felt their position under threat as work had been reallocated internally. They had all lost their passion for the company and their job.

In short, we had failed to communicate effectively and regularly with them. Often the problem with communication is the belief that it has taken place. In this instance it hadn’t. But more importantly the umbilical that kept them informed, connected, and someone of value – had been severed.

We remedied this by creating a “buddy-system” aimed at communicating with staff while on maternity. The number of resignations dropped dramatically. It’s a simple system to implement, self-managed, and costs nothing. But most importantly through communication the employees felt connected.

Today many of your staff are sitting at home experiencing similar feelings – what’s going on? what does the future look like for the company and for me? You have two options. You can wait until everyone is back at work and carry on as if nothing has happened – not advisable. Or you can take the Franklin D Roosevelt approach by using this crisis to display clear reassuring and inspirational leadership – strongly advisable.

Roosevelt used his “fireside chats” to take millions of Americans into his confidence. Boy did they need it; the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II were just a few. He carefully crafted these chats to stifle rumours and clearly explain what he was doing, why he was doing it and what it meant for his people. He used a confident and reassuring tone building hope during times of uncertainty and despair. When he was called on to lead, he didn’t hide, he led. Communication was his most powerful tool and defined his success as President.

In your company, are the internal communication platforms that traditionally keep employees informed about developments affecting the business lying dormant? If so, informal communication leading to misinformation and rumours will fill this vacuum. The longer the silence, the less information staff receive, the less connected they feel, and the more dangerous the situation becomes. You need to remedy this immediately and be very clear that internal communications are not simply reinforcing policies, procedures, and reporting on weddings and births.

Internal communications are the single most powerful tool for establishing and reinforcing company culture.

Without sounding like the great Steven Covey, here are our 7 reasons for an effective communications strategy:

  1. It enables the CEO to set the tone;
  2. It allows the executive to direct the narrative;
  3. It allows the executive to “create peaks” and tell the stories that reinforce company culture. The book Powerful Moments should be next to every leader’s bed. It will transform your organisation and your life;
  4. It allows the executive to maintain and reinforce values by reinforcing positive behaviour and attitudes;
  5. It allows the executive to reinforce the mission, and remind staff why we are here and what our greater good is;
  6. It allows the executive to execute the vision of the organisation; reinforce the shared understanding of who we are;
  7. It allows the executive to reinforce the strategic plan highlighting the common goal;

By doing this, the executive keep staff informed, keep them engaged, while all the time uniting the organisation and forging strong collegial bonds.

So how do we go about this?

Technology has collapsed time and place. You can communicate with staff wherever you are. Stay in contact with ALL your staff, there are no exceptions, and no excuses. It takes 5 minutes to set up your Companies WhatsApp group, so communication really does create communities.

“Just today Meshack sent me a detailed voice note to remind me that Wednesday is mowing day. The lawnmower requires petrol from the red cannister while the weed-eater being two-stroke, gets the premix from the white cannister. Was I aware of this? (no, I wasn’t!)”

The following steps will ensure that you communicate effectively with your staff:

  • Have a set time and format – this creates certainty and routine;
  • Prepare what you want to say – be clear as to your why;
  • Have a purpose – what do I want to achieve (inform, advise, encourage etc.);
  • Address staff with respect – respect is reciprocal and contagious;
  • Communicate openly, honestly and transparently – yes even bad news, staff will trust you if you do;
  • Tell stories of the organisation’s successes, of individual successes to reinforce your message.
  • Remain optimistic and positive – you are their weathervane, never lose hope.
  • Follow the 4 Cs;
  • Clear;
  • Concise;
  • Correct;
  • Ask for feedback, develop dialogues, ask for suggestions – you don’t know all the answers but collectively your staff might;
  • Be yourself – always.

Saige offers a complete organisational communication audit resulting in a detailed organisation communications strategy. From establishing your employer brand, creating or redesigning websites, maintaining websites, establishing and managing social media campaigns. Training on public speaking courses, communicating in a crisis and social media.

To find out more about leveraging the communication opportunities within your organisation, click on the link www.saige.co.za .

If you would like to learn more about Saige, we would be happy to conduct a free forty minute workshop with you and your company, email us at info@saige.co.za