Every leader understands and advocates the significance of a strong communication culture.
Exceptional leaders understand that building an open, healthy and positive communication culture isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s critical.
At Mindful Presenter, we have the good fortune of working with many of the world’s best loved brands. The savvy companies don’t just put glossy posters on meeting room walls promoting values like:
Diversity and inclusion
They live the values
Building a strong communication culture doesn’t require a team of external consultants spending weeks or months creating clever company values.
It starts with behaviours.
It’s not uncommon for organisations to create their communication culture through:
– Consulting everyone in the business using surveys
– Sending people on leadership courses
– Creating a vision and mission statement
– Copying other brands
That’s all well and good but there is a great deal more that we can do.
Talk to them
Survey’s are great but they don’t come close to talking to people.
If you really want to understand your company communication culture spend some quality time in each department. Talk to your team.
Speak to as many people as you can on a one to one basis.
– How they feel
– What works and doesn’t work so well
– What drives them crazy about the way the business communicates
– How included they feel
– Whether they feel they can be themselves and speak openly
Ask them how valued they feel their voice is.
Stop the noise
I was leading a virtual presentation skills workshop recently and after the group returned online from our morning break, one of the delegates looked troubled.
I asked him if he was ok and his response concerned me.
He explained that he had told everyone that he would be out for the day on a training course. He had his ‘out of office’ email notification on and made it clear to his boss, team and colleagues that he would be unavailable.
Despite this, when he checked his mobile phone after the first break he was disturbed to notice that he had received 150 emails and had 22 missed calls between 9.30am and 11.30am.
Even if he hadn’t been on our workshop, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is communication overload at its best.
This is happening in many organisations today. We have an opportunity and obligation as leaders to recognise the damage it is doing to our team and to stop the unnecessary noise.
If it’s not absolutely necessary or doesn’t serve any useful purpose, other than covering peoples backs, ask your team to think carefully before they send emails.
Cut down the meetings
In many businesses today there are far too many meetings taking place.
Many of these are far too long and a great deal simply unnecessary.
Organisations who encourage and allow people to schedule way too many meetings aren’t giving their people enough time to do their jobs, let alone think.
Every day we speak to professionals who tell us that many of these meetings are frustrating because they are either unnecessary or they just don’t need to be there.
Most of us are already overwhelmed with information and the more meetings we attend is fueling cognitive overload and creating a negative communication culture.
Many of our clients tell us that in the new virtual world, many days their diaries are filled with ‘back to back’ meetings.
If it’s not absolutely necessary or doesn’t serve any useful purpose, other than covering peoples backs, ask your team to think carefully before they schedule meetings.
Lead the way
Every week in our in-house public speaking and presenting workshops we notice an interesting phenomenon.
After agreeing how much damage is being done by presenters filling their PowerPoint slides with too much text, data and bullet points we see senior people doing exactly that in the next room.
Often, during a break my delegates and I will see people standing with their backs to their audience, reading extremely busy slides.
Our communication culture starts at the top. If you read slides, your team will too.
Let them be
During a recent presentation skills course we shared with participants the idea that if you are presenting to a group of people, it’s helpful to present standing up.
Our delegates understood and agreed in principle but quickly said that they would never stand when presenting. They explained that no one in their company stands to present and they would feel very uncomfortable being the first to do so.
If it’s within your gift to stand up when presenting rather than staying seated, stand.
Standing allows you to move and express yourself more freely. It’s natural, can help us to feel more confident and authoritative.
Encourage your team to challenge the status quo where they feel it necessary and helpful. Help them to do what they know is right.
Even a handshake speaks
Half way through a recent presentation skills workshop the managing director of the business walked into the training room to introduce himself to the delegates and myself.
He shook my hand first and in the process it genuinely felt as though he was breaking my bones. As I began my recovery, he did the same to the delegates as I watched the pain in their faces.
When he left the room no one remembered what he had said as we all focused on nursing our hands.
Having a firm handshake is one thing but a crushing one is entirely different.
People are complex, it’s easy to experience a crushing handshake differently.
Some may perceive it as a sign of an arrogant or domineering personality while others experience it as insecurity.
Even the way we shake hands impacts our communication culture.
Make them feel something
During a recent presentation training workshop, the group and I heard a lot of noise coming from the much larger meeting room adjacent to us. It quickly transpired that some of the senior managers were having a company ‘huddle.’
As the ‘huddle’ involved people presenting, I suggested to my delegates that we joined them to see what we could learn.
The ‘huddle’ involved four senior managers presenting to 60 people who were all standing for 45 minutes.
As we returned to the training room after the ‘huddle, ‘I immediately ask my delegates how they felt having attended it.
I received three responses:
‘I’m glad it’s over because my back is killing me having stood for so long’
‘Nothing new, same old, same old’.
‘It’s always boring.’
As part of your communication culture, ask yourself how you want your team to feel during and after every communication whether spoken or written.
Just because it’s something you do regularly, that doesn’t always mean its helpful or valuable; ask your team how they feel about it.
Sometimes we just need to be listened to.
I remember once having a boss who when I went to speak with him about a problem or idea, he spoke to me whilst staring at his laptop.
He said he was listening and I’m sure he was.
The problem was, he looked far more interested in what was on his screen than me or what I had to say. It felt uncomfortable and uncaring.
A strong communication culture involves actively listening and showing interest, not multi-tasking.
Take time to reflect
Take time regularly with your leadership team and senior managers to reflect on how you can improve your communication culture.
– Open, honest, and transparent communication
– Listening carefully
– Setting aside judgment
– Leading by example
– Keeping it real
– Consistency and credibility
– Getting straight to and sticking to the point
– Encouraging people to talk about themselves
– Connecting emotionally as well as intellectually
– How to help people to feel confident and courageous
– Avoiding information overload
– Keeping things simple and relevant
– Helping people to be themselves
– Making communication mindful and meaningful
Life is a conversation
At Mindful Presenter we hold the passionate belief that life is a conversation.
We are always talking to someone either through the spoken, written or non-verbal word.
When we are not communicating with colleagues, clients and stakeholders at work we are talking to friends, families and strangers.
There is always a conversation taking place
We owe it to ourselves to get good at communicating and to do whatever it takes to help our team to do the same.
If you’d like to develop your presentation skills as part of your communication culture
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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