Communication time wasters and how to overcome them
Time management is a key skill for leaders and managers to embed into their armory, but few rank communication skills as a time management issue. Yet statistics show that poor communication costs a team 280 hours of productive time each year.
To put this number into even greater context, the 2018 Holmes Report estimated that the cost of poor communication in large companies (with more than 100,000 employees) average $62.4 million per company every year. Further, the cumulative loss in productivity equates to a massive $26,041 per worker because of communication barriers.
In this article, we examine why constant communication is essential and look at the time wasters and how to overcome them as you seek to make constant communication a central strategy in your time management as a leader.
Why is constant communication essential?
Poor communication is a widespread problem in today’s organizations. How well your organization performs is largely due to its ability to communicate from the top down. When communication is not consistent, meaning is misunderstood, intention is misaligned, and confusion reigns. There are five key ways in which constant – and consistent – communication positively affects an organization.
1. Constant Communication Creates Certainty
A lack of communication causes employees to feel less certain about their role, their responsibilities, and their value to the organization. It causes concern about how your organization is doing, and this undermines employee and team confidence. In turn, this damages trust and morale.
A constant flow of information, communicated consistently, alleviates uncertainty, and helps to develop mutual trust between the organization, its leaders and managers, and its employees.
2. Constant Communication Quashes Gossip
The water cooler is busiest in those organizations in which employees are ill informed. Our nature as human beings is to solve problems – and what bigger problem is there than trying to figure out what is happening with your employer?
People will leap to their own conclusions, discuss these with their colleagues, and present persuasive arguments that compel others to spread rumors and fill in the gaps left by an absence of communication from managers. This is not only true of organizational issues, but also on a more personal level, too:
Employees will conclude that they are doing a poor job if they have not had positive feedback from their manager for a couple of months
When auditors appear, teams assume that they are underperforming
When one employee is regularly invited to management meetings, others assume that it is he or she who has been selected for promotion
Gossip spreads fear and resentment, and dents morale. It can harm motivation and cause widespread mistrust. Open and honest communication with colleagues and employees builds trust and improves morale.
3. Constant Communication Improves Productivity
When managers communicate poorly, employees are often left second-guessing what they should be doing. They are reduced to asking others for confirmation of their role and how to do their tasks – causing a knock-on effect of interruption and delay.
Perhaps worse, those who are not sure of what it is they should be doing – or why – undertake their tasks with hesitation and uncertainty. They muddle through, and often complete their jobs with errors that must be fixed. This damages productivity, causes deadlines to be missed, and results in more management time being ‘wasted’ by recommunicating what was poorly communicated previously.
4. Constant Communication Improves the Customer Experience
As poor communication causes uncertainty, as well as a rise in unhelpful rumors and a drop in productivity, the next item on the list to be damaged will be your customers’ experiences. Mistrust, uncertainty and low morale eventually affects customers – usually in the form of poor customer service and substandard products.
When communication is precise, consistent and constant, there should be no misunderstanding that seeps into the customer experience. Closing gaps in communication ensures that mistakes are avoided, and that problems are solved effectively and efficiently.
5. Constant Communication Reduces Employee Turnover
It is often said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. Many studies have dived deeper than this overarching generalization, and found that poor communication lies at the heart of high turnover problems.
For example, a 2019 study by Peakon found that communication was the second-highest ranked factor when employees were asked ,”If you had a magic wand, what’s the one thing you would change about your organization?” It comes second only to pay, and sits immediately above management.
People want to feel satisfied at work. They want to know they are doing a good job, and that their work matters to their boss, their organization, and the organization’s customers. If you don’t communicate these things to your employees constantly, they will soon start to feel unhappy and begin to shut down. Then they will seek a new job elsewhere.
Poor communication is a time waster
Not only does poor communication damage productivity, morale, and employee turnover, it also wastes a huge amount of a manager’s time.
Interruptions and distractions come in many forms, and it has been calculated that they cost managers an average of around three hours each day. Improving how you communicate as a leader can reduce this, and lead to better team performance.
Managers who communicate effectively will suffer fewer interruptions from employees who need instructions confirmed. Effective communication is also key to empowering employees to seek their own solutions – leading to fewer interruptions down the line and a more efficient and collaborative team.
Building in time to communicate constantly is a key technique for managers to embed in their time management habits.
Why leaders and managers must communicate constantly and more effectively
Effective communication skills enable managers to manage their time more effectively and improve their own personal productivity. As an effective communicator, a manager will be able to:
Provide clear and concise instructions
Delegate tasks more effectively
Share information in meaningful ways
Manage workplace conflicts to maintain teamwork and morale
Effective communicators organize their time and their teams more efficiently, using the right channels and strategies to communicate with teams and individuals.
10 Steps to improve the communication ability of leaders and managers
Here are 10 steps that leaders and managers can follow to improve their communication ability within their time management framework.
1. Commit to Improving Communication
There is no time like the present to improve your communication skills as a manager and as a team. Effective communication is a skill that must be learned and, in a world in which communication channels and possibilities are continually evolving, continually reassessed and improved.
It’s also necessary to regularly review how you communicate with your team, allocating the right resources and delivering messages in ways that resonate with your employees.
2. Look in the Mirror
Much of your communication is likely to be made face-to-face. Have you ever considered what your employees and colleagues see when you are speaking and listening? Watching yourself speaking in a mirror can begin the process of improving your outward appearance to others.
It is also necessary to learn more about yourself to become a more effective communicator. Assessments we provide to help you do this include:
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – a highly reliable instrument that provides an individual with some clear clues regarding their preferences and tendencies on four personality dimensions
DISC Talent Insights – designed to increase individual awareness of one’s communication style and motivators, while introducing a model to increase the awareness of different styles
EQ-i2.0 – people higher in EI communicate effectively, form strong relationships, and create powerful coping strategies
Assessments such as these are often the first step in developing leadership and management plans and improving your communication skills.
3. Know Your People
Understanding your team and the individuals within your team is essential to communicating effectively with them and bridging gaps in multigenerational teams. Understanding individual cultures and how these impact behaviors helps you to ensure that your messages are meaningful to all.
4. Develop a Communication Strategy
Work with your team to develop a communication strategy and then create an action plan to ensure that it is executed effectively. You’ll need to assess the needs of your team, understand the outcomes you wish to achieve, and commit to positive communication daily.
Listen to the concerns of your team and actively seek suggestions. No strategy or plan is infallible, so constantly seek ways to improve your communication strategy and methods. Listening and acting on feedback is critical – it demonstrates that you respect and value your people.
6. Learn to Say ‘No’
As a manager, you are not immune to having tasks delegated to you. Be prepared to challenge this by learning how to question reasons and value to you and your team. If it is right that work is assigned to your team, you must have a clear understanding of:
It is important to raise objections and questions before accepting tasks, get all the information you need, and, finally, to be able to say ‘no’.
7. Delegate Effectively
When delegating work to individual employees or to your team, ensure that you provide all the information they need to be able to do the work to a high standard. Consider the questions that you would ask and provide clear instructions that answer all of these. Make sure that you tie the work delegated to ability, capability, goals and purpose.
While you shouldn’t micromanage your team, make sure that you check in on them regularly and that you provide the support they need, when they need it.
8. Improve Your Own Teamwork by Communicating Better
As a leader or manager, you will be working with both superiors and subordinates. Communicating effectively is key to your success in teamwork, and to do this you should get to know your colleagues better.
Learn about others’ goals, objectives and aspirations. Remember that while goals may be the same, the reasons for aspiring to them may be different. People have different skillsets, and this includes different communication abilities. You should be mindful of the ability of others to communicate when you are communicating with them, and ensure that the meaning of what you have said is understood by all.
9. Employ Appropriate Communication Channels
When developing your communication plan, it is critical to ensure that you communicate on the most appropriate channels. Managing internal communications in the omnichannel workplace effectively will enable you to:
Conduct value-added, two-way communications
Reach employees wherever they are
Make organizational announcements more personal and authentic
Deliver targeted messages more effectively
As well as communicating to different people in different ways, and ensuring that your message is consistent in the omnichannel environment, you should also consider what communication channel is best for which type of message.
Many managers rely on email when communicating with their teams. However, this reduces the urgency of the message. Email isn’t designed for emergencies or high-priority communications. Also, the overuse of emails ensures that both you and your team suffer constant distractions (which is why some of the best time managers only visit their email inbox once or twice a day).
Sensitive and urgent communication is better executed either by phone or, preferably, in person.
Set your communication guidelines early in your communication strategy planning, and ensure that these are adhered to by all.
Set a time for interruptions
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to overcome time wasters is to set a time for interruptions. Setting aside an hour each day when your door is ‘open for questions’ means that you are more likely to not be disturbed the rest of the day.
You may decide to set an hour before or after lunch, for example, when your employees can come into your office to discuss problems they have or help they may need. By doing so, you train your team to interrupting you only during this time, and prevent suffering from the need to constantly refocus after interruptions throughout the day.
The most effective managers are exceptional time managers, not only of their own time, but also of the time of their employees. Distractions are the biggest time wasters and they destroy focus.
Most time management coaching centers on tasks, priorities, to-do lists, and minimizing distractions. However, by communicating more effectively you will reduce the number of interruptions to your day. Your people will be more focused and productive. Rather than being a time waster that many believe it to be, constant and consistent communication within an agreed and focused communication strategy is key to improving time management of leaders, managers and employees across your organization.
To ensure that your communication strategy and technique is effective, contact Forward Focus today to learn how we can help to develop your communication skills and engage your employees at all levels.