Good Communication is Harder than You Think

Communication / May 7, 2012

I’m not sure when it started or how it happened. But somewhere between cave drawings on the wall and Twitter, people started to buy into the belief that communicating is easy. Maybe you know one of these people:

The college student who can’t decide on a major and chooses “communications” assuming it’ll be easy
The guy who’s had a Twitter account for 5 days and is now calling himself a “social media expert”
The sub-par job applicant who raves about their “excellent communications skills”
The co-worker who doesn’t believe in spell check or punctuation
In their minds, these people are excellent communicators. But if you ask the people with whom they are communicating, I bet you’d get a different story. It’s true that anyone can communicate. But not everyone can do it well. Effective communication requires thought, skill and preparation.

When communication goes bad, most of us blame the other party. Of course it’s their fault. How could they not understand what I mean? They must be stupid (c’mon, we’ve all thought this). Think about the current state of communication in your organization. If you’re brave enough, ask a few staff members what they think. Ask the lowest paid staff members. This could be a real eye-opener.

If you find that your organization is not where it should be, consider these things:

Establish Systems

Having systems in place in your organization that guide the flow of communication is vitally important, both internally and externally. How does your staff find out about the important things? Is it intentional or do they normally hear it through the grapevine? How do your clients or those in the community find out about what you’re doing? Establishing systems may seem to slow you down because you don’t see forward movement right away. But you’ll make up for it with improved efficiency, fewer miscommunications and a happier staff. Make it a priority. Get it nailed down and stick to it.

Get the Right People in the Right Places

Everyone in your organization communicates to some degree, but you have some who handle the brunt of the job. Maybe you call them “Communications,” “Marketing” or “Public Relations.” These are supposed to be the experts. And experts they should be. An expert communicator thinks in terms of strategy. They see the big picture. And they have the experience to go along with the job. Not everyone is qualified to handle communications on a large scale, yet this is how many organizations, especially churches and nonprofits, continue to operate. Does your communications or marketing staff perform at a level that matches the value you place on communication?

A Steady Diet of Feedback

The best way to improve in the area of communications is to know how you’re doing! Set goals that you can measure when a project or campaign is finished. If you’re talking smaller scale or internal communication, don’t be afraid to ask. Find out from your team what you can do better next time. Showing someone you value their opinion and you’re eager to know where to improve goes a long way. It takes honesty and a bit of humility, but in the end, it benefits everyone.

Maybe it will never be perfect, but taking steps toward improving communication in your organization will go a long way toward helping you carry out your mission.