The Importance of Effective Communication
In my last post, we talked about the importance of smart, peer-based hiring — contrasting it against the traditional or hierarchical hiring process that’s so prevalent today.
When hiring new employees, the rule is actually very simple and straightforward: Hire a great talent and you’ll have something outstanding to celebrate on.
Smart hiring is the best investment you can make. In case you missed this post, make sure to check it out!
Hire a great talent and you’ll have something outstanding to celebrate on!
In part 4 of our How Google Works series, I will be stressing out the importance of effective communication in your company’s success.
I will be also be highlighting some best practices on how Google values and distributes information as well as its advantages.
Excited? Read on!
The Power of Effective Communication
I’ll be blunt. Do you hoard information in your company? Just like in any relationships, information hoarding (keeping secrets that should not be kept) can cause many detrimental effects like loss of trust and poor performance.
The opposite is true as well. Actively and effectively sharing information to your employees (at any level) breeds trust and sense of belongingness which lead to increased productivity and better performance.
“Power does not come from knowledge kept but from knowledge shared” -Bill Gates
In How Google Works, Eric quoted Bill Gates’ very powerful words, “Power does not come from knowledge kept but from knowledge shared”.
He then stressed out that in the 21st century, money is not the lifeblood of a company —- it is information. Wouldn’t it be too ironic to keep information for yourself while living through the golden years of information revolution?
The traditional model of information flow where Employee A takes a few bits of information for himself before passing the memo to Employee B who then takes something for himself before sending it to Employee C and so on is a thing of the PAST.
Such practices must be abandoned if you want your business to succeed today.
Now the question is: What’s the best way to handle and distribute information?
Lessons from Mountain View: Google’s Best Practices on Communication
As what you may have already realised from my previous posts, there are many things we can learn from Google. And how to foster a culture of effective and open communication is surely one of them.
Below are the top best practices I’ve learned from How Google Works.
1. Be Open — Always
Share everything to your employees except those that are prohibited by the law (I’m sure you know what I mean). To illustrate this, let me present an example from Google.
Every quarter, Google holds a board meeting where product heads and senior executives use a report packed with data and insights that show every detail of the company’s status. At the end of the meeting, these reports (except those cannot be shared by legal reasons) are presented to the rest of the company as is —- the exact slides, videos and documents.
And the result? Nobody complains about not knowing what’s going in the company. The people who prepare the reports (who is doing a good job) will do an even greater job because they know that the reports will be for the entire company’s consumption.
“What if it leaks?” No worries! As you freely share information to your employees, you are cultivating a culture of trust.
There are also other meetings where Google executives talk about their goals, where they failed and why (You can’t see this in many organisations). What if it leaks?
No worries! As you freely share information to your employees, you are cultivating a culture of trust. Because you trust them, they will reciprocate it with deep honour, integrity and respect.
2. Know the Details
How well do you really know your employees? Once in my service as a missionary, I held a role where I get to supervise 24 team leaders.
At one point, the organization’s president asked us to do a simple exercise: “Record the exact birthdays of the people you are leading.” I was dumbfounded.
As a leader, you need to stay on top of the game. Though you may not remember the birthday of your employees, at least you know what’s going on in their jobs.
When Eric was Google’s CEO, he used to ask these questions when he runs into an executive:
What’s going in your job?
What are the issues you are experiencing?
Can you tell me something about the deliverables you owe me?
This approach has a lot of benefits: (1) you stay on top of your role as a leader, (2) you’ll know who among your execs are staying on top of their jobs and (3) you’ll know who are not cut for their jobs anymore.
So don’t forget to know the details. And once you have them, remember them!
3. Don’t be Afraid to Tell or Hear the Truth
The truth sets you free. And the truth sometimes hurts. Is something wrong going on in the company? Did the recent product launch went south? As a leader, you need to hear the truth — especially the bad ones.
While good news today becomes history tomorrow, bad news linger for a while especially if you did not do anything about it.
Developing this kind of culture in your company can be hard at first but trust me, it’s very doable.
In Google for instance, they hold company-wide TGIF meetings where executives get to answer really tough questions and employees get to judge whether or not the questions are fully addressed.
As a leader never take for granted any opportunities where you can promote transparent, honest and open communications.
4. Over-communicate —- in the Right Way!
I’m sure you find yourself over-communicating most of the time. Don’t worry it’s absolutely necessary (I’ve been there and I know how it feels when the stuffs you say don’t sink in on people).
But before you send that email for the 25th time on the same person take some time to answer the following questions first.
- Does the communication reinforce the goals or values that you want everyone to get? If people don’t understand what you are saying for the 25th time, then maybe they don’t believe in it or the plan itself is flawed
- Is the communication effective? Always have something fresh and relevant to say
- Is the communication fun, inspirational or interesting? Let say, you found an interesting article. When you share it, don’t forget to relate it with the goals or values that you are trying to develop in your company. Ask questions like “How do you think the message in this article will help us reach our goal this month?”
- Is your communication authentic? As Eric puts it, “If it has your name on it, it should have your thoughts in it”
- Is the communication going to the right people? Double check your distribution lists!
- Are you using the right communication media? Spend some time studying what communication media works well with your colleagues and then use them
One last tip before I let you go:
5. Focus on Relationships
Effective and powerful communication depends on how well you focus on your relationship with that person. A wise man once told me, “More important than speaking is listening.”
As a leader, take time to know and care about the people you lead.
Knowing little things like birthdays, partner’s name, kids’ names and important family issues can really make a difference. Appreciating and making people smile is very important too!
As you do these, you will eventually earn their trust. By then getting your communication across effectively will be just a ride in the park.
P.S. Don’t miss my last post on our How Google Works series. We will be talking about Innovation — the very thing that sets Google apart in the IT industry!