Effective Communication Impacts Productivity
The latest research available indicates there is a $450-550 billion loss of productivity in U.S. business annually directly attributable to poor communication. My personal experience working with businesses in a variety of industries would indicate that figure is very conservative and that the actual impact is much higher.
While technology keeps innovating with new communication tools in the marketplace, the level of skill with which one communicates with others in the workplace seems to drop off at a rate equal to that rate of innovation.
Whatever the real number, there are major competitive advantages for individuals, teams and organizations that are able to enhance their current level of communication.
So let’s take a moment to examine how we communicate and how we receive communication. The breakdown in communication actually begins when we enter school. The message from primary school through university is essentially “Pay attention to what people say”. And yet when we are face-to-face with another person and attempting to communicate the what is only a small part of our communication. The majority of our in-person communication is in the how. Let me demonstrate.
Take the phrase “Oh really”.
If it said with low energy, monotone, poor or no eye contact, or dullness, it communicates an indifferent or apathetic attitude about the subject at hand.
On the other hand if those two words are said with high energy, aggressively with upward voice inflections, argumentatively and forceful, it communicates a challenging or skeptical attitude.
Or it could be said while smiling, laughing, eagerly with bright eyes and high energy, it would communicate an enthusiastic or playful attitude.
The same two words but three different meanings based on how it is said.
So first, pay attention to the voice, the tone, the speed, the volume, the inflection and that will give you the first clues as to the other person’s attitude relative to the subject at hand. Then couple that with their body language to get a fuller picture of their attitude. Think of it like a song – words and music. If you will pay more attention to the music, the words will make more sense.
The other big consideration in communication is attitude. The moment you begin talking to another person, they start forming an attitude about the subject of the discussion.
Attitudes are the result of two spheres of influence – logic and emotion. Logic is based on facts or the known information on a particular subject. While emotion is driven solely off how we feel at that moment in time about the subject. Attitudes are formed at the intersection of logic and emotion. The more important the decision, the more emotion dominates the formation of an attitude.
However attitudes present an interesting challenge because they are inside of a person, you can’t see an attitude. Fortunately people ACT in different ways depending on their attitude.
Consider these situations:
If I am skeptical about the information you are presenting to me, my action will be to challenge your information and look for some proof.
If I view your information as risky, my attitude is likely to avoid making a decision and seek some way to mitigate or eliminate the perceived risk.
However if I find your information interesting, my action is likely to be to continue the conversation by asking you questions or seeking more information about the subject at hand.
So if you want to be a better communicator and improve your organization’s productivity follow these two simple rules:
1. Pay more attention to HOW something is said rather than WHAT is said.
2. A person’s actions relate to their momentary attitudes and will provide clues as to how to connect with them at any moment in the conversation.
Try it. Find out for yourself. It works.
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About Patrick Malone
Patrick T. Malone, a Senior Partner with The PAR Group, has decades of experience in operations, customer service, and sales management. Before joining PAR as a senior consultant in 1989, Patrick worked in a variety of management roles including Vice President - National Sales Manager for The Scotts Companies and American Greetings. As a key…