What You Don’t Say, Says a Lot!

“We must hold ourselves accountable for opening communication lines with all areas of the corporation, so employees feel they have a voice when it comes to the cause.”

We all remember the adage, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” In business, we could change that to, “what your employees don’t know can hurt you.” Stop for a moment, and ask yourself how many times you’ve felt frustrated that you didn’t garner the support of your employees when launching a new idea or starting a new path for the organization. Chances are, it’s not because you had a bad idea, and it’s not that your employees simply wouldn’t support it. More than likely, they didn’t understand what they were being asked to support – or they only knew half of the story. Your business plan for communicating throughout your organization should be paramount.

When we half-communicate to our employees, we can’t expect to gain their full support. When we don’t communicate clearly, it clearly shows that our employees don’t matter to us. That we don’t care.

I’ve discovered that for culture to be an effective strategy to drive results in business, it requires the company’s employees to take ownership of that culture. Too many times, there’s a feeling that only the elite know what’s going on in their ivory towers, and the “rest of us” just have to fall in line and do what we’re told. The disconnect that happens between the decision makers and those who implement those decisions is a divide that fractures healthy business culture. The fracture is felt most not by those with the task of communicating these decisions, but by those who are left out of the loop. This can cause gossip, rumors, and untruths to be shared by the water cooler. This is a risk for leaders, who genuinely need their employees to care about what is happening in the organization.

The key to effective culture strategy is giving your employees permission to care.

Your employees can’t support what they don’t know. We all understand this concept, but with that understanding, we should ask 3 questions:

• Who needs to know this information first?
The best way to get the full buy-in of your employees is to identify the thought leaders within your company and first share the information with them. These thought leaders are peers that your employees can look to for guidance and opinions when change is happening. It can seem a bit political, but these thought leaders will organically become a sounding board and information source for the majority of your employees. If the thought leaders are confused by what is happening, the company won’t understand, either – and that can be toxic to your overall plans. Getting the buy-in of your company’s main influencers, as well as the management, should be the first step in the process. You can’t personally answer every question or lead every conversation, so you have to make sure that your management team is fully aligned with your messaging and can act as a liaison in your absence.

• How much information do they need to know?
The key elements to communicating fully with your employees are what I like to call the “Why, How, and When” of conversations. Always make sure the following statements are completed when having this conversation with your employees:

“The reason we made this decision, or took this course, is ___________.” (Why)
“The way we are going to move forward together to accomplish this goal is ___________.” (How)
“If we do this right, then by this time we should see results ___________. (When)

Finishing these statements will give your employees the information they need, through a communication process I call “creation/evolution/end game” – why how, and when. Each employee should fully know why we are doing a thing, how we are doing it, and when it’s done – then they will understand what we will have accomplished when it is over.

• Who is tasked with leading this communication rollout?
The buck needs to stop with someone who is tasked with ensuring that the right people know the right information at the right time. Those 3 components comprise the structure by which any communication plan is implemented. If you miss one of those facets, you will have likely miscommunicated the entire plan – and the employee will be unable to put the company’s decisions into perspective. Miscommunication inevitably leads to distrust. Selecting an employee “point guard” to set up your “play” can mean the difference between gaining your employees’ trust or losing it.

Communication is worth it. If you can gain your employees trust, you will gain their support – even during the most difficult seasons of your business.

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