Many of the problems that organizations, teams, and individuals encounter on a daily basis find their roots in poor communication practices and poor communication skills. If you are the president of a company, the manager over a department, or the supervisor of a team, communication is vital to your success. Walk into most any organization or team environment and ask them what creates most of the problems they face. A very large percentage will inevitably respond with the same word – “communication.”

Co-workers who seem always to be at odds with each other will find that good communication skills will eliminate much of that conflict. Top management who senses reluctance to the buy-in of corporate goals or who have departments which are at disharmony with each other will often find poor communication from the top down to be the cause. General unhappiness of employees is almost always cured with effective organizational communication skills. Even parents find their family is more harmonious when even the youngest child is kept in the communication loop.

“Communication” has two very distinct aspects:

The first is that of keeping everyone informed. People at every level function better with information. Leaders should never make the mistake of thinking that because it doesn’t affect the actual job duties of employees, they don’t need to know. While there will always be information that should not be communicated, employees at every level are more willing to accept information, good or bad, which is shared with them by management. Management that keeps their people “informed” will find an increased level of trust and commitment among their people at every level. Developing and maintaining an effective internal communication plan should be a priority for every leader. An example I encountered recently: The president of an organization along with the director of the program made the decision to change the formal name of the program. However, they failed to make the name change known throughout the organization. Consequently, the development department was embarrassed when a donor asked about their “new” program.

The second has to do with the individual’s communication skills. First of all, communicating with another individual or individuals is more than just words. A good communicator must be aware of the words being used and of the message being sent by their body language. Researchers tell us that only a small percent of the message being conveyed is being done with the words we use; the rest of the message is being conveyed with tone of voice, posture, use of arms and hands, eye contact, and facial expression. Secondly, good communicators are likewise good listeners – listening to the words and non- verbal communication of the other person(s). Thirdly, it is important to understand that not all people communicate in the same manner and thereby are more receptive to the message when it is presented in their communication style. Some of us want direct and to the point communication while others prefer a friendlier and more personal approach. Others may want to have information about Even when communicating using texting, e-mail, or other written information, every effort should be made to accommodate the communication style of the receiver(s). For example: If you are communicating to someone who has a direct, to-the-point communication style, don’t give them exact, detailed information which is not definitively necessary for them to know.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”…George Bernard Shaw