What does your communication style say about your culture?

What does your communication style say about your culture?

Every company, department or team needs a leader. Leaders set the tone for the organization’s culture. It is a proven fact. Can you have a successful company without a CEO? Do football team captains play a major role in a winning season? Does a cruise ship need a captain to reach its destination safely? A focus on leaders is the natural design of how we operate as a society. So what education/training should be offered to develop the leaders, the influencers needed to grow your company, establish your branded culture, and obtain your business revenue goals of tomorrow?

Let’s focus on one of several key attributes a leader should possess: the ability to communicate effectively.

There are several ways we, as a society, currently communicate:

  • Verbal: face-to-face, words, tone
  • Written: email; text; tweet
  • Non-Verbal: body language
  • Interpretation of environment: atmosphere, cultural styles

Your current and future leaders need to be able to communicate in all these ways because today is different than yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. It is a continual change.

However, no matter what method you communicate through, there are some things that will not change.

Perception is Reality

How others hear you and how they see you is reality to them, not your interpretation of the situation. If you are speaking with an individual who is constantly looking at their iPhone or staring at what the person behind you is doing rather than focusing on you as the center of their attention, what is your perception? Do you believe that they are truly listening and showing you respect as an individual?

Perception is reality, and whether or not you are listening intently while staring off into the distance during a conversation, the individual you are engaged with will interpret you as disinterested, rude, and disengage quickly. Do you want a workplace culture that is perceived as being disinterested in people? Future leaders must have a high degree of self-awareness along with the ability to observe and adjust on a dime. Organizations must invest in their people to improve self-awareness, understand that perception is reality, and proactively deal with impact of communication on their overall culture.

Don’t kill the messenger

First impressions represent 80% of what people think of you – period. This occurs within the first 90 seconds or less. To change an impression requires a lot of work over many hours, sometimes even days. You have heard that one “Oh S___” will replace 50 “Atta boys” in 5 seconds! This is the same with first impressions. In today’s world of speed, your words or letters and their delivery will either capture their attention or eliminate it.

Body language tells its own story. Awareness of your facial expressions, your stance, and your eye contact (to name a few) can create a perception that is very negative or very positive and inviting. In addition, behaviors are interpreted as actions, whether they are verbal or not. What is your organizational culture telling you if during a manager’s meeting everyone is sitting around the table with their arms folded and checking their phones? Learning more about non-verbal communication may actually help you reach your ROI!

Big Bang explosions create lasting scars

We mentioned earlier that change is constant. If an organization wants to meet their revenue targets, they must be able to live through constant change and reduce any type of chaos associated with how work gets done differently. We are hearing that current and future cultures must embrace this to stay competitive. It then becomes a key responsibility of the leaders to bring people through the stages of change as quickly as possible. Some company cultures that experience continual change have often felt that the Big Bang style is the best; as everyone is an adult, they need to get over the past, live with the modification, and get on with it. They proceed to toss all modifications on the table at once and basically tell their people accept it or move on.

Have you experienced this? If so, what was your personal reaction? What did your colleagues think and how did they act? Did people’s behavior differ when the next change was introduced? Did it help you become more productive? Experts say, no. This causes people to wish for the past and how things use to be, blocking them from moving forward and slowing down your team and productivity. Leaders of tomorrow must learn the techniques to eliminate the scaring effects of a Big Bang explosion.

These are just a few examples of how communication can impact your organizational culture. They are not taught or practiced in high school or college. Rather, for companies that are truly serious about their future, it becomes part of their leadership development as they grow leaders for the changing needs of their company’s future.

What about your communication style?

Are you aware of how your communication style impacts your culture? Is it the impact you want? What one change in communication style would you make if it returned a better outcome? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

Photo Credit: Sebastien Wiertz photo – altered FlickR version

About the Author

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Carey MacConnell

Carey MacConnell is the Vice President and Co-founder of Voyager Leadership Training, a group that focuses on growing competent, confident leaders through proven techniques she successfully embraced in her 30 year career in leadership positions. She works with current and future leaders to help them transform themselves, their teams and organizational culture through embracing accountability, collaboration, trust, change and creativity resulting in superior business achievements. She has spoken at several industrial conferences on the subject of Safety and Culture. She is the author of “The Leadership Code of Conduct; Culture Change Made Simple.”