Communication: the 10 C’s

At the meeting when I addressed the bunch of business leaders this week, I insisted on the importance of communication. It was item4 on my list of hi- 5. ‘Seek first to understand than to be understood’, Stephen Covey used this very catch phrase to introduce communication in his widely read book, ‘the 7 habits of highly effective people’.

I had the chance of having read and studied the Covey Leadership literature when I was being trained in Utah as a certified trainer. Having shared the material so often, with the number of participants of  the subsequent Covey Leadership seminars, the principles, through repetition, have sunk in me. Yet another example that ‘through giving one recieves’.

Some tips on communication from Dianna Booher, the 10 C’s of communication:

Information is not communication. Posting announcements, holding teleconferences, or scheduling meetings is not substantive communication.

Poor communication! We hear this complaint often. The problem? Information is not communication. Posting announcements, holding teleconferences, or scheduling meetings is not substantive communication. These 10 strategies will help you deliver a message that informs and encourages others while gaining buy-in:

1. Be Correct. Tell it like it is. From the C-suite to the mailroom, truth-telling is key to productivity. If you missed your numbers, say so. If you made a mistake, admit it. Be known as a person who speaks the truth. There are easy answers. And then there are truthful, more difficult answers. Your power as a communicator often depends on your choice between the two.

2. Be Complete. Don’t get so busy analyzing, solving problems, questioning, coordinating, deciding, and delegating that you fail to communicate what’s going on to those on the sidelines. To make good decisions and take appropriate action, people need complete information. Great leaders give people the why’s, what’s, and how’s.

3. Be Clear. Be specific. Separate facts from opinions. Verify assumptions. Vague generalities create confusion. Speak and write in simple, plain language. Muddling information creates a sense of phoniness, insincerity, or intimidation. Purposeful evasion—where harmony is valued above honesty—destroys trust, erodes morale, and lowers productivity. In such cultures, everyone gets along, goes along —and sinks together. Face-saving is a poor substitute for problem solving.

4. Be Consistent. A manager hears, “The company is not doing well. Freeze wages.” Then she sees construction crews remodeling the executive dining room. Customers, colleagues, and employees experience disenchantment when they see inconsistencies in the workplace. You can’t not communicate—by words, action, or silence. You communicate by the policies you enforce and ignore, by the behavior you reward and penalize, and by the quality of the products and services you advertise and actually deliver.

5. Be Credible. Consider the look, language, likeability factor, character, and competence. People often judge your credibility by your appearance (dress, grooming, movement, gestures, facial expression, posture, walk). When you speak, they judge your ability to think on your feet and express yourself. People tend to trust people they like.

6. Be Concerned. Concern connects people. In whatever situation—from product recall to layoffs to employee illness to accident victims to stressed colleagues—there’s great power in communicating your concern. When logic causes a lapse in the relationship, emotion closes the gap.

7. Be Connected. Leaders who show they care about people as individuals—not as employees, suppliers, or customers—make a connection. Those who don’t fail to communicate, and lose employees and customers.

8. Be Current. Speed is the new measure of quality. No one wants to wait days to hear the latest big news. Speed is essential in bringing scattered work groups up-to-date on new projects, diffusing rumors, and maintaining morale.

9. Be Competent. Ensure your communication demonstrates competence. People hear what you say or see what you write about your work. Often they judge your competence by what you communicate—your reputation with customers or colleagues often rests on a single interaction.

10. Be Circular. Ask, “Who else needs to know?” when there’s a change of plans or when new ideas surface. Publicizing your point, encouraging feedback, facilitating conversations across functions are just a few ways to be circular in your communication.

Communication is the most critical component of great customer service, the biggest challenge leaders experience in times of change and upheaval, the most frequent reason top talent joins a new team, and the most frequent complaint employees cite as their reason for leaving.

How well you communicate dictates how well you do as a leader.


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