Silver tongues & golden ears

Sirajuddin Aziz
August 26, 2019

In today’s fast paced life and a cutthroat business environment the importance of communication cannot be underscored strongly enough. Living in the information age with speedy transition into the digital age, the form, speed and clarity of communication acquires great significance. Essentially communication is a tool for achieving higher productivity and strong binding relationships.

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In today’s fast paced life and a cutthroat business environment the importance of communication cannot be underscored strongly enough. Living in the information age with speedy transition into the digital age, the form, speed and clarity of communication acquires great significance. Essentially communication is a tool for achieving higher productivity and strong binding relationships.

Communication is critical towards building teams. The shared goals and objectives have to be delivered to each team member, with clarity of purpose by the means of clean communication. No organisation can afford to grow if it fails to pay attention to the value of communication.

Acquisition of knowledge about market conditions remains a valueless proposition, if it is not shared through clear channels of communication, to those who would effectively utilise the prompts for enhanced business opportunities. In fact, business growth is dependent on strong internal and external communication edifice. The leadership in any organisation has to embrace it as part of its responsibility, to let both internal and external clients, to speak up to communicate. The communication structure and apparatus should be so built that it engages all staff members. It is pointless for a leader or manager to develop a vision, unless he/she can communicate it to those who have to pursue, for its achievement.

In the building of a unique corporate culture, it is imperative to pay attention to creating communication mechanism, that permits celebration of success, or even to alter or alarm the staff about declining sales due to competition, or for any other reason. Communication ensures knowledge and the presence of knowledge leads to action.

The building of corporate culture is dependent on the quality of communication system that is in place within an organisation. “When the eyes say one thing and the tongue another, a practical man relies on the language of the first” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). If as managers we can recognise how much misunderstanding we create by much talk, we all would talk less.

Effective communication recognizes; it is to be used to give feedback so that it helps create the elements of dissemination and transmission of information that goes towards the building of common understanding across the organisation. If there is clarity in the thought so it will be in the expression. The choice of words to communicate is the face of your thoughts. In fact clarity is the politeness of communication.

The objective of communication should be clear and crisp. It must be short, to the point. A good communiqué is where the relevance to the addressee is established first. The medium of communication is equally significant. It must be chosen with care and insightful thought, while it is known that face to face communication is the most powerful medium for it enables the communicator to fathom with a large degree of assurance, of the reaction it evokes from the recipient. Regardless, whether the medium is written letter, an SMS text, an e-mail or even a call, managers must learn to communicate, as if you are on a video-call with the recipient.

Each organisation, over a period of time, develops its own, distinct and peculiar lingua franca that is understood far and wide within the entity. In an organisation, I once worked for, I noticed, because of the manger’s penchant for using idiomatic phrases, including similes and metaphors, all staff liberally either imitated the manager or came up with their own unique creations, As an example, “ first get the low-hanging fruit”; or a more threatening, “ you should know which side of the toast is buttered and by whom” and the best of all, in reaction to introducing new initiatives, everybody would use, “ you cannot boil the ocean, in a single afternoon”. Communication is, both verbal and non-verbal.

A proverb from South Asia, loosely translated says, “The dumbness in the eyes of the animals is more touching than the speech of men, but the dumbness in the speech of men is more agonising than the eyes of the animals”. A manager must be confident that his communication achieves the status of message intended is the message extracted.

Never ever under or overestimate your audience or your addressees. Good communicators change their delivery of speech to suit the audience.

Good and effective communication corrects the presence of any emotional imbalances, inclusive of giving conditions that prevent emergence of conflict; it surely curbs tendencies of being misunderstood. This works both, internally, within staff members and externally with clients. In fact, in inviting clients towards either your new products or even existing product suite, the language used must be one of inducement. Good communication leads to better client management and relationships.

Poor communication has disastrous consequences, leading to loss of direction, de-motivation, and the work then ceases to be result-oriented. Ineffective communication is usually the number one cause of missing budgetary numbers, targets and sometimes even the corporate ideals.

Should communication be an issue of importance for the board, the CEO and the senior management? Indeed yes. It must receive attention for strategy of communication. There must be in every organisation a dedicated and well-trained team of communication experts, who are entrusted and plugged into various formats of communication, inclusive of the more popular sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. For creating large pools of talent, it is important to cascade relevant information to all levels. Ideas need translation through good communication strategy and the tools used. Effective mechanism of communication ensures higher productivity and trust between all levels of the hierarchy, while generally boosting the morale of the staff.

A good communication policy would envisage within its contents the importance and value of “listening”. Listen to what the staff has to say; listen to what the clients are saying. A British high street Bank had as its slogan, “we are a listening bank”. Listening, leads to greater satisfaction at work place, both for employees and clients.

The openness in communication allows for free flow of innovative ideas. Today there is no difference between upwards and downwards communication. It has ceased to be top-downward instead it is a two-way street.

Organisations or offices that subscribe to open communication would usually display an open door policy -no cabins are closed. This brings me to the subject of how much negative information should be shared? And does it have to be ambiguous and sugar-coated? If yes, to what extent? Not, all managers are blessed with equal proficiencies (and thank God for that!) and hence are impaired to firstly assess the impact of bad or negative information. If it is unduly underplayed, it would make the situation unreal. The staff may lose “faith” in the word said. Leaders, for these reasons have to be excellent communicators, not merely in defining goals, objectives, budgets and targets; but also for handling information in times of crises. Good communicators are great and precious assets.

Communication strategy must be to either persuade action or to bring controls in place. Managers must bring it into their passion about the need to communicate. The choice of words used, should be representative of gratitude, truthfulness, and sincerity. Indeed the cornerstone of any communication policy and strategy must be honesty and truthfulness. If it fails this fundamental test, it can never achieve any results, except negative.

—The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist

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