Clarity in Communication

November 10, 2021

Communicating well has never been easier yet it appears we are continually falling short. Despite incredible leaps in technology, including a dedicated communication device in the palm of our hands, we struggle to communicate effectively. This is a huge problem for productivity and profitability.

A 2011 survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year in lost productivity because of inadequate communication to and between employees, according to the Holmes Report on “The Cost of Poor Communications.” 

Is this due to the sender or receiver of communication? The answer is an emphatic YES!

The sender can undermine message effectiveness for many reasons, including choosing the wrong medium (texting versus calling), not recognizing the power of non-verbal communication (body posture, tone of voice, etc.), not providing context, and using too few, too many or the incorrect words to clearly convey thoughts. The receiver can fail to carefully listen or read the message due to distraction or lack of focus, choose to make assumptions rather than ask clarifying questions, and respond only partially or not at all.

The most common reason organizations communicate poorly is because they don’t achieve clarity around key messages and stick with them, according to Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. The discipline to overcommunicate clarity is one aspect of Lencioni’s Four Discipline Model, which he says is vital for leadership where organizational health is concerned.

True Rumors

“The best way to ensure that a message gets communicated throughout an organization is to spread rumors about it,” writes Lencioni. “Tell true rumors. After decisions are made on a leadership team, have each leader immediately communicate that message to their direct reports.”

Lencioni says this results in “cascading communication” with a structured but interpersonal process of rolling key messages down throughout the organization. The effectiveness of it has to do with the contrast to more formal means of communication.

Three Keys to Cascading Communication:

  1. Message consistency from one leader to another
  2. Timeliness of delivery
  3. Live, real-time and in person communication (not email, but videoconferencing when necessary) – Make it interactive so questions can be asked in the moment

Sending & Receiving

Whether you’re in a leadership role or not, simple things can make a huge difference in the way you communicate as a sender and receiver.

When sending a message:

  • Be Intentional: Ensure the intention behind your message is clear. Provide context, set the appropriate tone, and remain sensitive to your audience.
  • Choose Best Medium: Though you may default to text or email, there are many times and many messages that should demand using the phone or delivered face-to-face.
  • Emoji or No Emoji: Etiquette regarding emojis in business texts is so far unclear. Context is critical as emojis are seen as more casual and can be interpreted inconsistently. On the other hand, they can quickly convey a mood. It’s probably best to use them sparingly.

When receiving a message:

  • Listen/Read Carefully: Seek first to understand, then to be understood as Stephen Covey so eloquently stated in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Be an active listener.
  • Ask Clarifying Questions: Rather than make assumptions, be sure you fully understand the message you read or hear. Assume only that the sender has positive intent until you have proof otherwise.
  • Respond Thoughtfully: Before you respond, ensure you clearly understand what the sender is looking for. Is it agreement, acceptance, approval, etc.? Once you know this, respond in a way that is respectful and kind.

These are obviously only a few things to consider as you seek to improve communication in your role. Keeping these in mind when you send or receive a message will likely improve the clarity in your communication. And that’s good for you and your organization.

Effective Teams Begin with Trust

October 8, 2014

Dysfunctional teams can produce results, but not consistently and not over the long term. An effective team that produces results consistently requires many attributes, but they all must begin with trust.

More than anything else, trust enables people to work together effectively.

Stephen M. R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, says this workplace trust is a function of both character and competence. Character includes integrity, motives, and your intent with other people. Competence is your capabilities, skills, results and track record. Both are essential for trust.

Trust lays the foundation for two or more people to function effectively because it instills assurance that the other person(s) can be relied upon.

In Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he describes a lack of trust as an “unwillingness to be vulnerable.” This ability to be vulnerable is essential for people to feel connected—in both our personal and professional relationships—and that enables us to trust that we can count on each other.

In his book, Lencioni describes how trust shows up in teams.

When there is an absence of trust, team members:

  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
  • Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
  • Fail to recognize and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Hold grudges
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together


When there is trust, team members:

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help
  • Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
  • Appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation
  • Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group

Successful teams demonstrate confidence that every team member’s intentions are good and they can feel safe within the group.

Trust within a team often requires that individual members demonstrate relational trust. Covey identifies 13 behaviors that strengthen relational trust. These are: talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, right wrongs, show loyalty, deliver results, get better, confront reality, clarify expectations, practice accountability, listen first, keep commitments, extend trust.

These behaviors don’t demand that everyone be an outgoing extravert who shares their entire lives with everyone at work. Instead, it is the ability to be open and transparent about who you are in a professional sense.

The ability to be open with each other is not so much about sharing personal information as it is sharing your knowledge, skills and experience with regard to the work you’re doing. And it is about the team members’ perception of your integrity, authenticity and level of caring.

The perception of these attributes will determine whether you are someone of character and competence team members are able to work with. And that is the trust they need to function effectively as a team.