Got a communication problem?
“The less people know the more they yell.” ~ Seth Godin
For more than 30 years (wow that’s hard to admit) it’s been my privilege to work with a lot of different businesses. Regardless of the industry or the project, one consistent problem is ALWAYS identified.
Senior leaders, middle managers, or frontline team members, all bring it up at some point.
And once it comes up, the examples of whom it impacts and how it impacts them flow freely…
“There’s a real lack of communication around here.” Followed by examples of things that people feel they don’t hear that prevent them from doing their best work.
“No one ever tells us anything that we need to know.” Followed by examples of consequences experienced because someone didn’t know something they needed to know at the right time.
“The fill-in-the-blank department or team never tells us anything.” Followed by examples of real or perceived impacts that arose because information arrived late or was insufficient.
That problem is, you guessed it (of course the title sort of gave it away)—COMMUNICATION.
I’ve identified three reasons why this appears to be the one true certainty in life and why it is so often seen as a problem in credit unions:
- The Silo Problem — the credit union business tends to focus operations within individual business units. The separation of the people involved in different stages of the process often leads to miscommunication and/or a lack of communication in a timely manner.
- The Waterfall Problem — communication often flows from top to bottom. The waterfall problem occurs when messages don’t flow down the line, a process that is often relied upon for sharing information with mid-level and frontline employees in many credit unions.
- The Easy Excuse Problem — communication often becomes the easy excuse for misunderstandings, frustrations, and problems. In fact many problems can be traced to misalignment of available information with needed information, but that doesn’t mean communication is the root cause of the problem.
In fact, the real problem is something closer to what blog author James Clear described in a recent post:
‘Everybody already knows that’ is very different from ‘Everybody already does that.’ Just because a solution is known doesn’t mean it is utilized.”
The reality is that everybody knows how to communicate and recognizes the value of complete and timely information. But that doesn’t mean that everyone takes action to make that happen.
That’s why you need to be proactive in solving the communication problem: Define a simple set of steps and follow them regularly to guide all communications.
Here are three possible approaches for you to consider:
- Create a list of 3-5 questions everyone agrees to use so that communication is timely, on point, and directed to the right audience(s);
- Develop a set of 3-5 beliefs or commitments that everyone agrees to that are intended to engage everyone in improving communication; or
- Define a set of 3-5 guidelines that everyone agrees to follow when communicating within the credit union.
The Bottom Line: The communication process is far too important to be left to chance. Take action to define an approach that will get your team on the same page so you can break down the silos, keep the waterfall flowing freely, and remove the easy excuses.