A business stands and falls on its communication.
Of course, that’s true for the way that you communicate with your clients.
But it also is true for your internal communications. Whether you’re an established, medium-sized business equipped with the latest Ericsson LG iPecs technology, or a two-person creative partnership in the early stages of a new venture, the way you communicate with your team could be the difference between meaningful impact and mediocrity.
Poor communication: a perennial problem
Miscommunication puts your business immediately on the backfoot. And in some cases, it can lead to tragedy. History is littered with events where better communication could have prevented calamity.
- In 1854, a British brigade of calvary armed only with lances and swords charged a Russian artillery squad armed heavily, resulting in heavy British losses. Why? A miscommunication in the British chain of command. (You can read about this in Tennyson’s poem Charge of the Light Brigade).
- In 1912, as the Titanic slipped into the cold, unforgiving sea, other ships struggled to find its location. Why? The Titanic’s communication system had become overwhelmed, making it difficult to send clear messages.
- In 2010, NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter – the jewel in the crown of a $327 million project – was either destroyed or lost in the vastness of space rather than completing its mission effectively. Why? A terrible communication blunder: some members of the development team used the metric system; others used the American imperial system.
Clear communication: a business priority
Of course, you don’t need historical examples to know that clear communication should be a business priority. You have likely learned this from hard experience. You know how important it is to ensure the right information is in the hands of the right people at the right time.
Try the following to enhance your internal communication:
Use excellent infrastructure.
A cloud-based system offered by products like Ericcson LG iPecs will put the world at your fingertips. Need all the functionality of a copper-cable system with none of the downtime, costs, and frustratingly difficult scalability? Done. Need to integrate a suite of online apps to make your business run better? Done. Need crystal-clear quality and user-friendly internal and external calls? Of course. Need to prepare your team for in-office, on-site, and at-home work? Absolutely.
Leverage online tools … and build a culture that uses them well.
When you have the right infrastructure, you can make use of the right tools. Contemporary communication tools are mind-bogglingly powerful. Imagine if the Titanic used Slack, Skype, Zoom, or even humble email? Of course, these tools exist in a culture that uses them well. Clear policies can help you function better. Many businesses struggle with the sheer volume of emails, so you might create guidelines about when an email is appropriate, who should be cc’d in (and who shouldn’t!), and where information can be found.
Remember clarity beats complexity every day of the week.
You may have heard of the complexity bias. Basically, it’s the human tendency to prefer complex explanations to simple explanations – at least in the short term. We like complexity because it gives us a sense that we understand the true nature of the world, in all its glorious diversity. The problem is that complexity in communication leads to avoidable mistakes. In business, simplicity in communication should be the ultimate goal. Edsger W. Dijkstra writes, “Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it.’ So how do you achieve it? Let’s think about email for a moment:
- Keep emails as brief as possible, especially when replying to others. If you can’t answer an email in five sentences, a phone call or meeting may be more appropriate.
- Avoid mixing important information with other content. Consider cutting out the friendly greetings – at least in emails where each word is crucial!
- Eliminate jargon and long sentences where possible. Use vocabulary that is simple, clear, and comprehensible. Replace long sentences with two or three shorter ones that, when read together, communicate the same thing in a more direct manner.
- Start each action item on a new line, and use a verb at the start of each action-item sentence to clarify exactly what you want the reader to do. See the start of each of these sentences as an example.
What’s the best way to build a culture of communication in your business? Embrace honesty. Honesty is a two-way street: it requires you to provide guidance and feedback that, while warm, doesn’t skate over real issues, and it also requires you to acknowledge where you have made a mistake that has impacted others. This is tough for anyone, but it’s especially hard when we live in a society that values perfectionism and control. That said, nothing builds a culture of clear communication better than honesty. At Manopark, we love the Ericsson LG iPECS system, but honesty can do what no cutting-edge technology can: encourage open dialogue in your team.