How we disseminate communication to our teams is crucial in times of Crisis and Everyday
In times of crisis, it is easy to see whether there are flaws in your organization’s communication processes. If there are not good plans in place, the rumor mill runs rampant, informal leaders are relied upon for translation and speculation, and anxiety runs high.
As a consultant in Fire and Emergency Services, I often do cultural assessments of teams who are looking to improve how they interact and move the organization forward. A resounding complaint received in surveys is that communication is POOR. This is a source of frustration from leaders who feel like they ARE communicating and wonder where the gaps are.
First, let’s make a distinction between Interpersonal Communication (how we relate and speak to each other), and Organizational Communication (how we disseminate information throughout the organization). This blog will focus on Organizational Communication and will be a two-parter with tools you can use right away.
Next, we will examine what you have in place and a good way to review or improve that. The next blog will give you a way to have solid content and a great flow of important messages throughout your organization.
When I work with a leadership team, I notice leaders expressing frustration that they are always putting information out, yet the rumors are still flying, and people aren’t reading the emails they send. Their frustration leads to a “why bother?” feeling. One group I worked with felt they were “always communicating,” and the staff was not disciplined about reading the communications. “They have to meet us halfway,” one said. The symptoms of this were staff complaining, morale low in some areas, and trust of the rumor mill over the words of the leaders.
Their problem was a lack of a “Communication Strategy." They dropped emails or texts for various things, but there was no consistent message vehicles or a place where they could go to verify the information.
The good news is there are some simple, thoughtful ways we can regain control of communication in both small and large organizations or even sections/divisions. These are things we can do on a large scale crisis issue like an emergency change of medical protocols during a pandemic, or something that is not a crisis but certainly important to all employees like a change in promotional testing procedures.
Let’s look at how to improve no matter where we are our communication journey (and it is a journey, not an event):
Review your formal communications. What are your current communication methods? To do this, check the type of communication vehicles you are using. Download the free tool by clicking the button above. Here are examples: • Leadership Team Meetings • Memos • Tailboard Meetings • Staff Meetings • Emails, Instant messages • News Briefs • One-on-one Meetings with staff
Note if the vehicles used are consistent. If a newsletter pops up for a few weeks, then not for another month, staff wonders if they missed something and if it is really the trusted news source.
What is the purpose of the communication vehicle? Are you meeting that purpose? Are you giving the right content for the intended purpose?
Who is the target audience of the communication vehicle? Do all employees have at least two reliable communication vehicles they will see?
What is the frequency of communication? I’ve had leaders realize they were having some staff meetings too frequently and with no agenda. Take a hard look at what you are doing and make sure it is what’s needed. Maybe frequency should change, or possibly they can be shorter with a tight agenda. Make sure meetings are productive and share the minutes whenever possible.
No matter the number, style, or frequency of communications you choose, the key is to make sure they are consistent. If you put out an electronic newsletter every Friday afternoon – keep it up even if there isn’t any breaking news. This way, your staff will be able to rely on that document.
We’ll talk more about content in Part II, but for now, take a look at the structure you have and think about how you can improve it. This will create a culture where employees feel like they are being included and updated. There are many opportunities to communicate every day…how we handle them proactively and reactively has everything to do with how well the organization runs. #communication #fireleadership #crisiscommunication #firedepartmentcommunication #bravefireleader #kellywalshconsulting