Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work for and with a lot of different types of businesses, government organizations and nonprofits. Through these experiences, I’ve learned a lot of things from a lot of people, and I’ve witnessed a lot of amazing things these organizations have accomplished. I’ve also witnessed a wide range of challenges and problems that exist, regardless of how great things may look from the outside.
One of my favorite analogies is that of a duck. When you see a duck in the water, it looks calm, collected and graceful. It appears to glide effortlessly across the water. But if you were to look under the water, you’d see their feet flailing back and forth in almost a panic.
The duck metaphor is often used to describe organizations that appear to really have things together. The truth is, most, if not all, are nowhere close to perfect.
I also find this reality puzzling: Large, successful organizations often have the resources to hire the smartest and most experienced people. Yet, for some strange reason, they still face the same basic challenges, and these challenges are often simple to solve.
After a lot of observation, personal failures and firsthand feedback, I’m convinced that almost all problems are due to a lack of communication. Here are a few examples.
Morale and employee retention: Keeping employees happy and engaged is critical to the success of every organization. When people become disengaged or overall morale is low, it’s almost always tied to people feeling left out or not knowing what is going on.
Communicating with your team is one of the most basic elements of leadership. And yet, so many people in leadership roles are really horrible at it. They hold back information or only say the bare minimum, without explaining the “why” behind decisions.
Personnel issues: Relationships between managers and their direct reports can quickly turn bad, if communication is a problem.
Generally speaking, I’ve found that a lot of people with management responsibilities don’t like conflict. They avoid difficult discussions and sweep issues under the rug, hoping the problem won’t resurface or snowball.
One of the most important aspects of an employee-manager relationship is for the employee to always know where they stand. There is nothing worse than being blindsided with a negative critique or drastic action being taken when the employee has never been coached or talked to.
It’s one of those scenarios that I strongly believe is unacceptable in all aspects of management. If you have a problem or a concern with someone, they need to know about it. It’s not only fair and the right thing to do, it’s your obligation as someone who is responsible for the success of people on your team.
Customer complaints: Aside from customers complaining about a product or service not meeting their expectations, most customer service issues are directly related to lack of communication. Often times, it’s someone not wanting to deliver bad news to a customer or waiting to break the news until it’s too late.
Basic things like keeping customers updated on when their order is shipping help create a positive customer experience. Or how about the classic story of the customer who does a lot of business with your company, but feels like his business is not appreciated? Yes, you guessed it: This is yet another example of a problem that can be solved with more effective communication.
These examples are just a few on a long list of many challenges organizations face. Make a list of the top challenges you think are impacting your company. And then see how many of them can be solved or improved with better communication. I bet you’ll be surprised.