Good Times or Bad Times -
Communication is Critical

by Sean Williams

During a crisis, anyone would agree that effective communication is vitally important to management effectiveness. But the ongoing health and vitality of business requires outstanding communication at all times.

The Information Technology group in one of America's leading insurance companies identified the need for improving the ability of their managers to communicate business information with employees. The managers needed tools to help them know what to communicate, how to communicate, and how to discover and draw out resistance to change among employees.

Central to the training program was the use of three essential tools, followed by the practice of those tools by managers in each training session.

Participants learned how to use the tools to disseminate information, draw out resistance, and discuss the information.

One of the firm's vice presidents characterized the communication tools as a "great gift" that not only enables managers to communicate business information day-to-day, but that would help them get through the September 11 events and their aftermath.

Senior leaders need employees who understand, buy-in and contribute to the business. They need an environment aligned to the customer, with performance-based results. They need to be able to depend on their management team to make it all happen. Compelling research says that employees want Face2Face communication from their managers. What do employees need?

  • Managers to listen and talk with them.
  • To know the business direction.
  • To know what is changing and what needs to change.
  • The reasons behind decisions.
  • A two-way, open environment.
  • To know how changes will affect them.
  • To be treated like adults. They can handle the negative; what they can't handle is not knowing.

Our own research on behalf of hundreds of companies finds that managers know communication is important. What they need are tools to help them:

  • To know how to communicate business issues and changes, including the negative.
  • To be able to listen in a way that respects employees and draws out their best ideas.
  • To know how to draw out resistances to change.
  • To be able to probe -- to ask the right questions.
  • To get the information they need from their managers.

Organizations should arm their managers with tools to engage and motivate their teams to take the right actions in support of the business.

Many organizations turn to outside vendors to obtain the specific expertise to teach their leaders how and what to communicate, and how to draw out resistance. Here are three critical questions to ask when evaluating a Face2Face training vendor:

  • Does the program offer proven, research-derived tools, not just theory?
  • Is the program tailored to your company and its business issues?
  • Does it offer a combination of teaching and practice?

Anyone can think up a list of questions and call it a training program. But your organization needs a measurable, tested method and simple tools that your leaders will use to place corporate messages into context for their unit.

Face2Face communication is what employees want, it's what managers need, and it's what gives senior leaders the motivated, engaged, aligned workforce that allows the internal pace of change to keep up with the external.

How does your organization communicate? Research from the American Management Association rates communication in a virtual dead heat with managerial effectiveness as the most important attribute of management competence; more than 83% of respondents rated communication skills essential to their organizations. We find that managers know communication is important -- what they need are the tools to do it correctly.

Whether it's a full-on crisis, or just the everyday challenges in running your business, the more effective your managerial communication is, the more effective your business is. Companies that communicate, perform.

Sean Williams is Senior Consultant for Face2Face Communication Learning for Joe Williams Communications, Inc., an Oklahoma-based strategic planning, research and training firm. His office is in Cleveland. Visit; Telephone: 918-336-2267; e-mail: .

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Copyright 2002 by Sean Williams. All rights reserved.

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