Shawn Parr: Communication Work Strategies (That Work!)
CEO of Bulldog Drummond on utilizing communication-enhancing tools to improve executive leadership and build team and interpersonal communication
Great leaders inspire their people and provide focus by setting a clear vision, a mission, and actionable values that fuel an environment for individual and company-wide success. A strong company culture is fueled and inspired by leadership actively involved and connected to the realities of their teams and their business.
It’s no secret that ineffective communication is one of the main drivers behind workplace failure. Poor, nonexistent, misdirected and dysfunctional communication are among the biggest reasons companies fail to accomplish their missions. Building a strong culture takes countless hours, hard work and commitment—and often involves tearing down the barriers that threaten success. Identifying ways to optimize internal communication is an area that leaders should invest more time in.
Working closely with a diverse range of executive teams at both multi-billion dollar corporations and early-stage startups, I work as a strategic guide around strategy, innovation and cultural transformation and I have seen how collaboration and communication at its best drives success and at its worst, poisons a company’s potential. Significant investment is made in employee development, recognition and engagement but very little time and money is spent to improve communication.
Be honest for a minute and think about how much time you waste in meeting preparation to ensure you deliver on a message for a key executive. Or how much analysis and discussion revolves around trying to understand and translate feedback from a senior leader—it adds up and is riddled with inefficiency.
Maybe it’s time to think about internal communication as an opportunity for new thinking. Understanding who you’re talking to, how they process information and like to communicate are opportunities to significantly improve results.
Chances are your employees don’t always have the opportunity to perform at their optimum level because their natural talents go untapped as a result of poor communication and a misunderstanding of who they are engaging. In our work to connect teams and optimize their cultural effectiveness, we’ve used two programs that have been very effective in improving communication.
Gallup Strengths Finder is a valuable engagement tool that helps employees discover and build their innate abilities. The Gallup-created assessment program is based on a 40-year study of human strengths and talents—helping people ingress, discover and characterize their talents. They’ve also created an online Strengths Center to provide solutions that enable people to become more engaged, more productive, and happier. When people do what they do best, companies and organizations benefit. According to Gallup, “People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. Teams that focus on their strengths are 12.5% more productive. Coach the people you lead to improve their performance.”
The program also enhances executive leadership teams by focusing on leadership talents. Completing Gallup’s strengths coaching certification process allows individuals to achieve an elite level of coaching and mentorship by providing them with the tools to inspire confidence among the people they coach.
Who’s Who in the Zoo is another program designed to enhance internal communication. It transforms the way people in companies relate to one another, to management and to customers by teaching them to become effective communicators. Personality types are easily identified and referenced with a specific animal characteristic. Once participants are aware of their personal character, they learn how it relates to their own communication styles. They are also taught how to intentionally adapt their communication style to more effectively listen to, connect with, and influence their important colleagues.
This program works because it’s structured to focus on others instead of one’s own self and is built on the premise that successful communication is saying something the way the other person can hear it, not the way you want to say it. The program begins with people discovering which animal they are in the zoo, and once that’s established, the focus shifts to others, adapting the ideal communication style accordingly.
Good communication is key in business and in life, yet it is absent in many relationships, teams and companies. Utilizing communication-enhancing tools is an effective way to improve executive leadership, build team and interpersonal communication, develop employee strengths and innate talents, all while helping to increase productivity and build a vibrant company culture.
Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.