Don’t you just wish there was a silver bullet for attaining your growth goals? We know there isn’t, but, wouldn’t it be so great if there were? Because we know what we want to achieve. We even have a pretty good idea of the path we need to take to do it. But if you are like most executives I talk to, it seems really hard to get it done. It takes more time, more effort, and the results are a bit underwhelming. What are we missing?
Actually, there is a secret weapon. It doesn’t cost anything and is available to all of us. Communication! Two-way consistent and regular communication.
In the always-busy work environment, supported by all kinds of digital communication, people aren’t talking about what matters most. Communication centers on the day-to-day job: how to solve a customer problem, do we need to replace Susie who just resigned, should we run the marketing campaign for one week or two, how do I handle this general journal entry? These communications matter because they keep the company running. But they don’t keep the company growing.
The single biggest derailer of strategic implementation is communication issues. They take many forms:
- Poorly communicated strategy: It is not clear or comprehensive
- Actions are not clearly defined: People don’t know what is supposed to change
- Unclear accountabilities for execution: People don’t know what is expected of them
- Organizational silos and cultural resistance: It is interpreted the way people want it to be instead of how it was meant to be
- Inadequate performance monitoring: No one knows if it is working
- Poor senior leadership: Not motivating and creates disengaged employees
- Uncommitted leadership: They don’t keep priorities visible
- Unapproved strategy: The sneak attack where someone tries to replace or modify strategy without approval
Communication problems account for 30% of lost revenue potential during strategic execution according to a study published by Harvard Business Review. It is the number one issue. In our GrowthDNA framework, designed to help leaders achieve more significant and sustainable growth, we recognize that the #1 role of leadership is to motivate and inspire and educate employees about the growth path of the company and how they can contribute. That requires several things:
- Leaders must dedicate time to it. Joe Scarlett, retired CEO of Tractor Supply Company, remarked that if you were not a broken record, you weren’t doing your job. Most of us feel we have shared information –a lot! But it is never enough. You cannot overcommunicate. It needs to be something you are doing at every conversation. It needs to be done through every medium. It needs to happen at every level. And given the impact it can have, it is probably a lot more important that a lot of meetings on your calendar right now!
- Communication must be consistent. No matter how many people are in the communication chain, or how many communication events occur, the message must be the same. That is not to say you can’t get creative but the underlying information—the strategy, the priorities, the expected results—needs to be the same no matter who is sharing the information. Department executives shouldn’t reinterpret it for their staff based on their personal beliefs; The comment “that won’t impact us” should never be made. For the company to work together, they must all have a common understanding and commitment.
- Communication needs to be two-way. The only way to know if communication is working is to ask. Get feedback. Find out what employees do and don’t understand. What are their questions and fears? What are their observations and suggestions? Strategy is invented in the boardroom but not implemented there. If organizations are going to maximize results, they need to engage the entire organization.
If you want to pump up results by 30% this year, improve communication. Here is how to get started:
Step One: Appoint a communications committee representing all levels of the company
Step Two: Develop an annual communication plan. Determine what information is needed to inform and motivate, who needs to know, how often they need to hear it, the best way to share it and who is accountable to get it done. Make sure there are multiple feedback loops; assign responsibility to each level of the organization.
Step Three: Implement the plan
Step Four: Track results.
- Do employees know the strategy? Can they articulate it?
- Are they motivated by it? How has it changed their work?
- What could be done to improve communication further?
Step Five: Incorporate communication skills into training plans, and performance management goals.
So, share this blog with your team. Work out your action plan. And let us know how it goes for you!