The Importance of Effective Communications Systems and Good Listening
No organization can be successful without having an effective communication system. Ideas and information must be conveyed in a manner that is not difficult to decode. “To be successful in our interactions with others, we must provide clear and compelling information about what we want from them, and why it is in their best interest to cooperate with us” (Kreps, 2011). Communication is inevitable in the workplace (as it is in every area of life), so care must be taken to ensure that everyone clearly understands organizational goals and mission. No organization stumbles into an effective communications system. This is something that requires effort and determination.
Leadership must be committed to this goal and implement it as part of their overall business strategy. Defective communication can lead to all types of problems in the workplace. It can lead to confusion, tension, a lack of morale, a breakdown in discipline, diminished esprit de corps and many other problems when leaders fail to clearly articulate the organization’s intent. A substantial, effective communication apparatus can be achieved by adhering to some basic principles and concepts that have been tested and proven to work over a long period of time.
“Active listening is a person’s willingness and ability to hear and understand. Many of us intuitively know what active listening looks, sounds, and feels like,” (Hoppe, 2006, p 12). The importance of active listening cannot be over stated. It is a primary skill in the communication process. “One of the most important interpersonal communication competencies is active listening. Active listening means being fully engaged in paying attention to your relational partner’s communication with you” (Kreps, 2011, 4.3). Since no one aspect of communication stands alone it is important to work on all of the areas so that we can better engage the people with whom we communicate daily. Since active listening is one of the most challenging areas in communication, every effort must be made to improve on it.
To improve on this critical area requires a conscious effort since it is not something that most people are naturally inclined to do. During active listening more than the ears are involved. The listener must also pay attention to non-verbal cues that the other person is communicating. He/she must be adept at “reading between the lines” in order to fully understand what is being said, and in some cases what is not said. The listener should try to eliminate (as is practicable in different situations) any distraction that would subtract from the ability to give undivided attention to the speaker. It is easy to miss signals in communication when a person who should be listening is trying to send a text message on, or answer a cell phone, or is in a rush. People have to be willing to dedicate the effort that is necessary to be active listeners.
There is no good communication without good listening. If we are not actively listening to what someone is telling us we often miss or lose the essence of what they are trying to communicate. Any organization that learns the skill of active listening has good ground on which to develop a good communication system. When organizations engage in active listening they encourage members to disclose relevant information beyond what is on their mind or what they may want to talk about at the moment. A listening ear lets people know that their concerns matter and that the organization has their welfare at heart. This encourages members to be open about other issues and/or problems in the organization. “Active listening enables you to gather relevant information about your relational partners and about their insights into organizational life” (Kreps, 2011, 4.3).
Each organization has a set way of doing business. There is a common understanding and acceptance of the organizations customs and practices by its members. The role of organizational culture in communication plays a vital role in the communication process. Every organization has an identity which it has developed over time, and has a strong influence over its members.
The organizational culture serves as a guide and helps members to determine and act on what is acceptable behavior within the organization. As the diversity of organizational participants has grown, culture the shared ways that groups of people are encouraged through their social group memberships to interpret reality and respond to the different situations they encounter has become an increasingly important factor in organizational life (Kreps, 2011). The cultural dimension is central in all aspects of organizational life (Alvesson, 2002).
As a result of the important role that culture plays within the organization, leadership must ensure that the culture they develop is one that not only meets organizational goals, but also places an emphasis on how it will affect the people in the organization. Let us look at an example of how a negative culture may develop. Profit is important to any organization. Generating profit is how a business will survive, but if the emphasis is on profit at the expense of other good practices then this in the end will very likely have a very negative impact on the business. When unreasonable expectations are placed on employees they may respond by taking shortcuts in order to meet unreasonable deadlines. Supervisors under pressure may often look the other way and ignore unsafe practices because of the pressure to meet the demands that are placed on them.
A culture that is harmful to the organization may result in an environment where there is pressure to meet stroppy deadlines, the fear of being disciplined or receiving an unfavorable evaluation, or even losing one’s job. Organizational values take a backseat or they become non-existent with this backdrop. When people believe that they do not matter and that they are simply the means to an end, the organization may end up suffering a high rate of attrition as a result of a lack of job satisfaction. Workers tend to do the bare minimum, they lack esprit de corps, feel no strong commitment to the organization and break safety guidelines in order to meet their goals. Needless to say that this type of weak culture organization is unhealthy and can lead to injury, lawsuits, fines the loss of a good reputation and goodwill which in the end costs the organization more.
On the other hand, a culture that views people as the most important assets of the organization and treats them in a way that is commensurate with this belief will very likely be successful.
Many successful organizations have employed a strong organizational culture as an integral part of their business strategy. They do not place profit before people (though profit is the end desire and ultimate goal). They understand that if they care for their workforce, the workforce becomes more productive. Employees are more likely to buy into the organization’s vision and be committed to its mission when the organization encourages diversity, sets challenging but attainable goals, discourages shortcuts, stresses safety and encourages members to communicate with supervisors, managers and others throughout the organization.
Successful communication processes are very important in organizations that possess a strong organizational culture “Organizational communication in today’s organizations has not only become far more complex and varied but more important to overall organizational functioning and success” (Darling, 2011). Smart organizations recognize that good organizational culture is good for business and they do everything in their power to nurture and environment that stresses this.
No two individuals are the same. Though people may have similar tastes in some areas each person is different and very unique. Conflict is a natural consequence of having different personalities interacting with each other, but conflict need not be a negative thing. It can be a positive thing but very often is not. Having personnel with the skills necessary to resolve conflict will be a great benefit to any organization. “Conflict is neither inherently positive nor negative.
Instead, it is our reaction to conflict that determines whether it is constructive or destructive. Conflict presents an opportunity for positive change, deepening relationships, and problem solving. How you treat the other party or parties in conflict is highly predictive of the strength and duration of the relationship in the future” (Raines, 2012). Conflict causes different points of view to get moved to the fore. As people advocate for their positions and are passionate about them they often succeed in getting others to “take a second look” at their point of view. It is out of this passion and refusal to be give in on a position that conflict is often born. When two or more people have separate and or conflicting ideas on a given issue and each individual believes that his/her position is the right one it is easy for conflict to arise.
In organizations where people often have to work in teams or groups it is really important that conflict management skills are known and practiced. When conflict is handled incorrectly or poorly it can be devastating to the group or the team, and can have negative consequences on productivity. Sometimes the results of conflict that is poorly handled may have a long lasting effect because of hurt feelings, insults, undermining and other ill-conceived tactics used during the conflict. It is important in any situation in the workplace that people not take conflict personally. If they understand that it is a natural outflow of the group process because of the different personalities, varying opinions, different backgrounds and experiences of those involved it would help them to keep conflict in perspective.
Because conflict often brings out points of views that others sometimes never considered, good conflict management skills would come in handy to point out the merits and the demerits of certain positions. Good conflict management skills enable an organization to apply the appropriate skills to different situations. There are times when leaders may have to apply the skills to deal with ideational conflict, other times they may have to manage personal conflict or apply metacommunication techniques when, despite the best efforts to avoid it; differences lead to higher levels of hostility.
Having a good conflict management apparatus as a part of their overall communication process will augur to the benefit of the organization. There are many ways conflict can be used for good. Pointing out the pros and cons of an idea often helps to de-escalate conflict by getting rid of the emotional investment that people sometimes have in maintaining a stance. Using this tactic may also help to prevent conflict from escalating out of control in the future. Groups would have the experience from which they can draw and thus be able to better handle similar situations.
Conflict that is handled the correct way can serve to strengthen the team by showing that in spite of differences they can work together to accomplish their given mission. “Developing effective strategies for working through conflicts, exploring different ideas, and making informed decisions can help build camaraderie and member pride in the effectiveness of group processes” (Kreps, 2011, p 5.8).
Empathy in communication is one of the attributes in effective communication that cannot be ignored. It is important to cultivate this facet of the communication process in order to aid the smooth flow of communication. Empathy is showing that one not only cares, and is concerned for people, but also being there to lend a hand when possible, sometimes it is to just listen and be “in the moment” with someone. “Empathy listening can lead to better understanding the challenges that organizations face at each point in history by establishing learning by listening as a foundational organizational value, considering the persuasive arguments for valuing both empathy and listening in any and all contexts” (Parks, 2015).
Showing someone that you care about his situation or condition often provides a lift to the individual’s spirit, which may just be the boost that that person needs at the moment. In an environment where people need to lean on each other to accomplish an organizations goals empathy can engender trust, encourage reciprocity, help to build camaraderie and aid in promoting a sense of togetherness. People generally respond favorably to empathy so it is a useful tool to have as part of any organizations communication procedures.
When one considers the many ways that empathy can positively affect an organization, the opposite is quite true when this important quality is lacking. A dearth of empathy can lead to a very toxic environment that can have many of the same negative consequences noted earlier. Some people mistakenly believe that showing empathy is about being “touchy feely” and that people need to show “strength,” “man up,” or “get over it”. This misconception about empathy can cause leaders to miss opportunities to affect the lives (and by extension the organization) of employees in very meaningful ways.
It is true that there are times when employees may just need to continue with the job at hand despite current difficult circumstances, but one cannot overestimate the importance of possessing the emotional intelligence that would allow leadership to read when empathy is required. The right words to encourage someone can be like a healing balm that rejuvenates someone and causes him to demonstrate gratitude through his effort to the organization’s mission.
A lack of empathy by its very nature is counterproductive to the act of reciprocity so organizations will automatically miss out on this tremendous benefit that could well serve the organization’s interests. In addition, when people believe that the organization does not care for them they very likely will respond in little ways that shows they also do not care. Because of the gap in the power dynamic, some leaders may erroneously believe that they have no reason to worry about a subordinate not caring about them. What they fail to realize is that very often subordinates are privy to little tidbits of information, that can be used to undermine a supervisor, co-worker someone else they may deem to deserve this treatment.
Employees who feel slighted may feel the need to let a supervisor “fall on his face” for treating him badly. This toxicity may also manifest its presence in other ways that also do not bode well for the organization. The negative effects that a lack of empathy could have may range from unmotivated workers, extensive sick days, accusations of a hostile working environment to employees simply doing the bare minimum resulting in a drop in productivity. The old approach of high control management and communication are only appropriate in certain situations “newer approaches to organizational leadership suggest that the most effective leaders are emotionally intuitive and expressive individuals who connect personally with and inspire coworkers” (Kreps, 2011, 3.1).
Any organization that fails to adapt to the new ways of conducting business will pay a costly price. Good communication as a leadership strategy is important to any organization, without it organizations will not experience success. No product or service, regardless of how great it is can move itself. There must be strategic leadership in the planning, implementing and communication of the organizations plans. Leadership strategy must include clear guidelines that articulates the organization’s intent and what is expected of each employee. “If you take a look at the life of great leaders in any path of life including sports, politics, business, or even the military, you will be surprised to find that all great leaders are good communicators. To achieve extraordinary success in leadership, you not only need a clear vision regarding your goals and objectives, but you must also know how to communicate these objectives to your subordinates.
Hence, effective communication is an essential element of leadership” (Bamway, 2014) Employees are never left guessing when leadership clearly lays out the organizations vision and mission with a well-defined path on how to get to where they are going. Leadership strategy as part of the communication system is perhaps the most important aspect. The need for excellence must be a focus that is communicated by leadership and has to be demonstrated throughout the organization for it to become part of the organizations culture. Leadership strategy is perhaps the most important factor for an organization because leadership is what drives all of the other components that help to determine the success of an organization. None of the other elements are possible without a well thought out leadership strategy that is effectively communicated.
No organization can be successful without having an effective communication system. Ideas and information must be conveyed in a manner that is not difficult to decode. No organization stumbles into an effective communications system. This is something that requires effort and determination. Leadership must be committed to this goal and implement it as part of their overall business strategy. The importance of active listening cannot be over stated. It is a primary skill in the communication process. . It is easy to miss signals incommunication when a person who should be listening is trying to send a text message on or answer a cell phone, or is in a rush.
People have been willing to dedicate the effort that is necessary to be active listeners. There is no good communication without good listening. If we are not actively listening to what someone is telling us we often miss or lose the essence of what they are trying to communicate. Each organization has a set way of doing business. There is a common understanding and acceptance of the organizations customs and practices by its members. The role of organizational culture in communication plays a vital role in the communication process. As a result of the important role that culture plays within the organization, leadership must ensure that the culture they develop is one that not only meets organizational goals, but also places an emphasis on how it will affect the people in the organization.
Conflict is a natural consequence of having different personalities interacting with each other, but conflict need not be a negative thing. Having personnel with the skills necessary to resolve conflict will be a great benefit to any organization. In organizations where people often have to work in teams or groups it is really important that conflict management skills are known and practiced. Empathy in communication is one of the attributes in effective communication that cannot be ignored. Empathy is showing that one not only cares, and is concerned for people, but also being there to lend a hand when possible, sometimes it is to just listen and be “in the moment” with someone.
The old approach of high control management and communication are only appropriate in certain situations “newer approaches to organizational leadership suggest that the most effective leaders are emotionally intuitive and expressive individuals who connect personally with and inspire coworkers” (Kreps, 2011, 3.1). There must be strategic leadership in the planning, implementing and communication of the organizations plans. Leadership strategy must include clear guidelines that articulates the organization’s intent and what is expected of each employee.