Of Communication and Culture
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by Eddy Parham, OD Guy
Consider this truth for a moment - Organizations are living, breathing, organisms. They have their own culture, their own way of doing things.
But in order for an organization to survive the culture and its behavior must be congruent. And the congruency is directly related to the organization's leader being able to communicate that culture both internally as well as externally.
But not just any old communication – the communication must be effective. To chart the course for the organization, the communication must be driven from the top down. That doesn’t mean that those at the top don’t listen to those further down, but rather those at the top are responsible for leading the way. The leader must communicate the culture of the organization. And the leader’s communication must be more than just a memo or a short speech on the culture. Have you ever known a company whose talk was one way, but their actions were exactly opposite? Maybe you’ve dealt with a retail establishment who lauded themselves for the great customer service they provided only to run into employees who felt like providing customer service was not in their job description. The problem is that there is a disconnect between the leader’s words and his or her actions.
Recently while speaking to a group of organizational leaders on the topic of Communication, I told them that their words and actions must line up in order for their message to be communicated in the way they intended it to be understood. I know that this sounds overly simplistic, and in reality it is. So then, why do so many leaders get it wrong? It’s because that approximately 45% of our message is based only on the words we speak and the way we speak them! That means that 55% of our message is conveyed through non-verbal means, such as body language and our actions. People do what people see – not what they hear. To instill culture into the organization, leadership must communicate
• A clear corporate vision – not just one time either, but rather often and through a variety of mediums. A poster hanging on the wall collecting dust doesn’t cut it!
• Guiding values – these define who you are. And by the way, values don’t change – product lines and business strategies may shift because of various market demands but values do not.
• Accountability – employees from top to bottom need to feel ownership and true ownership only comes through accountability.
There are a lot of “things” that define an organization’s culture. But if the culture isn’t communicated and the leaders are sending mixed signals, the troops will act like the leader and not perform according to the leader’s words regardless of how often those words are spoken.