When Training is the Wrong Answer…

By Heather Campbell

Nothing changed from one annual staff survey to the next.

Every year, the scores around communication were low.

And every year, the answer was the same, as well – put on more training for managers.

By the time I got involved with this company, there was an unbelievable array of communication workshops available for the leadership. There was one on communicating by email, another on leading teams remotely, and still more on delivering staff briefings, coaching, influencing, and running team meetings.

It was all very time-consuming, and one of the company leaders told me it made his head spin just trying to remember all the different tools, techniques and models he’d tried to internalise!

It’s important to realise, though, that even when your staff survey explicitly identifies an issue with communication, training isn’t always the answer.

That’s because the problem might not actually lie with your leaders’ communication skills – even though that’s the assumption that’s usually made.

It might be the result of a deeper structural issue.

Before reaching conclusions, you have to dig deeper, and look behind the bald answers and stats in the survey.

I always start by talking to the leaders to understand what challenges they face when communicating with people.

Common responses include, “The team is too big to talk to everyone individually on a regular basis” and “There’s no point in engaging with people; I can’t do anything about the problems they’re bringing up anyway.”

These kinds of problems aren’t simply about the leaders’ ability to communicate, and training will not help.

Rather, you might want to look at how much time is really needed for leaders to carry out all the communication that’s expected of them, and work out what’s realistic.

This can lead to simplifying the lines of communication or reducing the volume of internal messages they are asked to share.

Or maybe you need to empower leaders so that they can solve more of the problems that are brought to them.

It might even mean cutting down on the invitations to attend training courses!

A couple of weeks ago I explained that you can’t take the results of your staff survey at face value. There are a whole slew of questions which, when you consider the responses carefully, can reveal a hidden communication problem.

But equally, even when staff tell you explicitly that your leaders communicate poorly, you can’t take that at face value either.

As with all surveys, the key is in the interpretation of the results.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics…

If your staff survey indicates that you have an issue with communication, contact CommsMasters and let’s talk. We can help you get to the root of the matter and fix the real communication issues in your organisation – as well as give your leaders a simple framework that will help them communicate effectively in any situation.

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