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Unexpected Barrier to Success

For most marketer companies, it’s not cash flow, lack of financing, or even competitive pressure that stands in the way of success. The biggest barrier to greater success is ineffective, inefficient internal personal communication.   If you want to position your company for greater success, remove the following barriers:

Conflict avoidance – Because people don’t like to hurt other people’s feelings or cause themselves or others anxiety, we often avoid conflict, letting things go rather than dealing with them. This avoidance behavior has three negative consequences.

First, the person that caused the conflict never is corrected. Because of this, they may not be aware they caused conflict and don’t have an opportunity to make a correction.

Second, others in the organization see someone behaving inappropriately without correction, losing respect for the individual that doesn’t deal with the negative behavior.

Finally, and likely most importantly, the person who sees and perceives conflict and then retreats from it without dealing with it, eventually feels anger and resentment. This anger and resentment can build over time, particularly if the offense is repeated. This person will either lash out eventually from pent up anger, or become the proverbial “victim” with the “oh, poor me” syndrome which is very counterproductive.

The solution lies in conflict education and skill training for your management and employee teams.   Begin with senior management and then move the education throughout the organization as quickly as possible. Several national training companies offer excellent daylong courses in conflict management for managers. Large organizations can also hire on-site help. Local universities often have resources in this area as well.

Indirect communication – In many marketer companies, when a problem occurs, the individual that caused or created the problem is often the last to know about it. When an employee discusses a problem about another employee through anyone other than that employee, we call this indirect communication.

For instance, Sally and Fred work in your office. One day, Sally does something that Fred doesn’t like or agree with. Fred tells everyone he can about how Sally is wrong, but never talks to Sally about it directly. By the time Sally hears Fred has a problem with her, everyone in the company already knows about it. Indirect communication is a form of conflict avoidance, but with additional consequences since it now affects many within your organization.

The solution is to create a culture and a policy within your organization that requires direct communication. Once your company personnel are trained in conflict resolution, company policy dictate conflicts are dealt with directly by the parties involved. This means when Fred starts to talk about Sally with John, John immediately stops Fred as soon as he gets the drift of the conversation, and says, “Fred, have you talked to Sally directly about this?” and refuses to be a third-party for Fred. If everyone in your organization is taught to encourage direct communication, Fred will have fewer ears to absorb his Sally story. After being told by numerous employees to go talk to Sally, he will likely take that step out of peer pressure alone!

Although direct communication is always encouraged, arbitration must be made available at all levels. For instance, if a driver has a conflict with a supervisor, there must be a third party the two of them can approach together for help with the seemingly unresolved conflict. The availability of arbitration is as important as the direct resolution process. It cannot work without it.

Poor listening – Do you ever feel like you attend meetings where everyone is talking at the same time? Do you give instructions to employees and later find your instructions were not followed? If so, it may be people aren’t listening. Listening is a skill that can be taught and encouraged.

One of the easiest ways to promote careful listening is by using and teaching summarization. After instructions are given, ask the listener to summarize the instructions. As the listener summarizes, you can detect how much (or if any) of the instructions were actually heard and absorbed.

In group meetings, anyone addressing the group should stop talking as soon as a side conversation begins to take place. Often a side conversation can provide valuable information to the group because it involves a clarifying question that the questioner was reluctant to ask in front of the group.  By asking about the side conversation, you bring that question to light for the entire group. If the side conversation, however, was not remotely related to the topic at hand, for instance a discussion about last night’s ball game, you will have brought both party’s attention back to your topic and let others in the group know you expect their full attention.

Start with yourself – When you take a hard look at your organization’s personal communication, you must start with yourself. If you know you are lacking in this area, don’t expect others to change without your mentoring. The American Management Association has excellent executive level communication courses. Lead by example.

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