Break Through Communication Barriers

Communication barriers inhibit effective workplace communication, and must be addressed directly to realize the powerful results effective organizational communication can provide.

There are five chief barriers to good communication in most organIzations today. Here they are and what to do about each:

1. Your stakeholders have other priorities. This is the norm, to be expected. Of course, they have other things on their mind besides your interests.

SOLUTION: Call a special meeting to address their concerns. Bring in the people who matter most: their boss, critical partners, peers of influence, thought leaders in their field, customers, and members.

2. Your stakeholders do not see the value of listening to what you have to say.

SOLUTION: Bring them in to evaluate a critical decision you are facing. Make a thorough presentation that lays out the context, the options, and the dilemmas. Ask them to think both independently and together about the best way forward. Highlight win-wins as they appear. Take action based on their advice, and give them credit for their guidance.

3. The people you are trying to reach are distracted by constant stimulus from other sources, or they believe what you are doing is not worth their time and attention.

SOLUTION: Do something countercultural to catch attention. Take on the concerns and issues of those who show resistance and make them your cause célèbre, attracting public attention and support. This is an effective way to reverse hostility and join forces with those who would oppose you.

4. There is so much happening in the work environment that it is difficult to stand out.

SOLUTION: Stage a concentrated series of highly visible activities. In a very short period of time, appear to be everywhere at once. Contact your constituents during this campaign and ask them to help with the design, planning, presentation, or execution of your project. Give careful consideration to their contributions, incorporating what you can.

5. The people you must reach have someone else programming their time who is not a supporter.

SOLUTION: Go directly to the source of competing demands to win support. For example, call a meeting of all managers who supervise the people you want to engage and demonstrate the effectiveness of their subordinates. Connect their common self-interest to the objectives of your initiative.

In my book, Getting Change Right, Chapter 1, Creating Rapid, Widespread Engagement, deals in detail with the most powerful way to reach people, making contact by successfully penetrating the ongoing onslaught of information and competing demands from others.

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