Communication is often seen as a soft skill. It is hard to measure the ROI of a paragraph or calculate the value of a sentence. And yet there are very real and hard costs to poor communication. The British Journal of Medicine reported in 2013 that over 440,000 Americans died due to medical error. And the Centers for Healthcare Transformation reports that 80% of medical error is due to poor communication.
A global PR firm, Holmes reports that the cost of poor communication has hit an overwhelming $37 billion. In another study, over 400 surveyed corporations (with 100,000 plus employees in the U.S. and U.K.) estimated that communication barriers cost the average organization $62.4 million per year in lost productivity. Clearly there are hard impacts to communications.
When people ask how can this be; It is in part because of our brain chemistry. When we communicate poorly with others we unleash a cocktail of brain chemicals that put people into fight, flight, or freeze mode. As a result, they are less collaborative and creative.
And when we shut people down, they end up doing the wrong work; they don’t meet deadlines and we encounter resistance to change.
We shut people down when we communicate with behaviors like:
- Raising our voice in a meeting
- Scowling in a conversation
- Glancing at our phone or computer instead of at the person we are in communication with
I remember once in a call center, one of the managers was upset with a phone agent and he picked up the card file and dumped all of this agent’s accounts on his head, because he did not like something the agent did. (This was when records were kept manually on cards in long shoe box like contraptions). This behavior did nothing to improve the representative’s performance. In fact, if we discount the emotional and mental toll, it was hours before the card file was back in place and they could work their accounts.
And here is the larger impact. Every rep in the room experienced the same emotional toll that this rep did due to something called mirror neurons. In other words, this manager not only destroyed the performance of one rep but also damaged the performance of all of the reps in the call center that day.
By the same token when we communicate well, we open up trust and the brain chemistry changes to foster and encourage collaboration and creativity.
The alternative is to leverage the languages and behaviors of trust to inspire and cultivate teams. Some phrases that will change your results are:
- “I trust your judgment”
- “Thank you”
- “I forgive you”
- “I’ve got your back”
- “How else can I help you”
Behaviors that are effective include:
- Eye Contact – when communicating… look at them not a screen.
- Listen First – Stephen Covey had it right in Seek First to Understand.
- Be Consistent – this can be hard but keeping a direction over time shows the team that your initiatives are not just the flavor of the month.
- Tone of Voice – sometimes in our hurry to be efficient we don’t connect with the people we are talking with. When we slow down and connect with them and the larger context, we keep them in the productive zone.
Slowing down to be clear on your intention, and the impact your approach might have can, make a measurable difference in the performance you receive.
There are three conversations that you must master for managerial and leadership success. To get your details on these three conversation click here. If you would like to explore how your communication impacts your team lets schedule a call here.