I have a personal philosophy about internal communication. Almost by default, people complain about it. Internal communication comes up as a workplace problem with some regularity. When it does, the song playing in my head has three verses:
- You’ll never get 100%
- Leaders have to care about it
- You are responsible for staying informed
Verse 1: You’ll never get 100%, yet that’s the expectation. I’ve done all kinds of internal communication – HR, IT, marketing, community organizations … (Skip the rest of the list.) Time after time, it goes something like this: We develop and deploy a rock-solid communication plan for an audience of say 7,000 individuals. When 6 people from that group of 7,000 call to complain “they didn’t know,” we spend time talking about this .00085% failure rate as an alarming example of an internal communication problem that must be solved immediately. My response (usually with my outside voice) is: An expectation that any internal communication plan will be 100% effective is not reasonable.
Verse 2: There is a strong correlation between the quality of the internal communication on my team and our success. I don’t underestimate the value of a team that is (and feels) informed. Because I know that the best leaders foster environments with a high level of internal communication, I spend a lot of personal time on it. Recently, I confirmed with my creative services team the methods in place for internal communication. I provided a printed list of the many options for staying informed, including team meetings, come-into-my-office sit downs, listservs, messaging, a project management system, the ticket tracking system, shared calendars, your supervisor, others on the team, social media, and the ever popular yell down the hall.
Verse 3: Yes, I’d like to have Jiminy Crickett on my shoulder all day. While he’s helping me with right and wrong, he can whisper what’s new and what I need to know. Not going to happen. Instead, the standard should be that you are responsible for staying informed. We all contribute to the channels in place and we all pay attention to them so that we know what’s going on. If you’re feeling uninformed, start paying more attention. If you are out of the loop because the communication tools need to be improved or changed, say so.
Message received? Over and out.