Communication—the Not-So-Soft Skill

I have seen several surveys that show the vast majority of automobile drivers believe they are better than average drivers. Of course, this just can’t be true, but I suspect a survey on communication would get a similar result. We tend to think that other people have an issue, but not us!

If you think that paying attention to the quality of communication within your organization has a low return on investment, consider the case of a multinational company we’re working with. They wanted to reduce the perceived waste in their annual capital expenditures. After benchmarking best practices in the area, they asked us to create a training solution to extend the new process throughout the organization. This work will potentially save the organization around $4 billion over the next 5 years.

However, as we dug into the process, it became obvious that the tremendous savings would be achieved primarily through implementing a communication process. At its heart, it was about getting the right people together for a series of facilitated conversations. Imagine saving $4 billion just by talking to the right people at the right time!

The key lessons we discovered while creating this communication process are:

Great communication doesn’t happen by accident. The success of the aforementioned initiative hinges on getting the right people together at the right time to talk about the right topics. It takes planning and commitment—and that commitment needs to come from the top of the organization and funnel throughout.

People need help. Sometimes it’s necessary to include a facilitator to ensure the conversation stays on track and covers all necessary elements. A good facilitator can both model effective communication and ensure all voices are heard.

Effective communication takes time. Completely resolving an issue or developing a plan usually can’t happen in a short, 15-minute chat. It takes time to hear each voice, process the information, and come to consensus. Give yourself and your communication partners enough time to accomplish your goals and make sure to plan time apart to process and assess information individually.

In our Gillespie Nimble cohorts, we teach a simple communication process that eliminates confusion and misunderstandings common in conversation. Download our Communicate with Clarity job aid to help you and your team improve your communication!