Hello out there, loyal leaders. Capt. Fletch back again for a chilly edition — at least by Las Vegas standards — of the Leadership Toolbox. Last time, we wrapped up 2022 and a five-part series on team development. We examined the important steps leaders should take when terminating or ending a team so that everyone receives closure, regardless of whether the team disbands or moves on to a new mission. This month, I discuss another common word used in virtually every industry: communication.

As I have mentioned, I am working on a master’s degree in construction management, currently finishing my 11th of 13 classes. The topic for this one? Managing through communication. Communication and safety have a lot in common: We often talk about their importance, but do not always follow through.

Communication has many facets, so where do we begin? First, understand that communication has two general categories: internal and external. From there, we can break communication into many different facets: written, verbal, digital, etc. For our purposes, we want to focus on establishing good internal team communication. As with most leadership discussions, communication begins with establishing a vision and smart goals. Remember, internal communication should push our team to pursue our vision and achieve our goals.

Communication begins with establishing a vision and smart goals. Remember, internal communication should push our team to pursue our vision and achieve our goals.

 After establishing a clear vision and goals, we can then begin to understand our target audience — a critical step crafting effective communication. During a course at the National Ground Water Association’s recent Groundwater Week event, I heard an audience member make a point about how their most skilled operator might not be their best trainer. Essentially, this represents a breakdown of communication. When we do not take the time to identify and understand our target audience, and simply assign someone to communicate or train others, the risk of miscommunication and frustration rises exponentially.

 We need to understand the demographics of our audience, like age, gender, tenure with the company, etc., but also the best form of communication to reach the most team members. Is it an informal morning chat? Should we use social media? Is it via email? Without defining our target audience, we cannot adequately determine the best medium to communicate to them.

After defining the target audience, we craft our message. Regardless of the medium, take the time to carefully draft the message and, if possible, have someone else review it. Tone, objective and even length all factor into an effective message. I draft these articles, for instance, then submit them for review prior to publishing. Often, after the editor reviews the work and provides feedback to the writer, they may further discuss preserving the author’s intent while communicating it in the most efficient way possible. The collaboration helps ensure a well-crafted message that delivers in a way that the target audience — you — can receive and act on.

From a leadership standpoint, I want to emphasize this review step. Think about the times you feel the urgent need to write and send an email response immediately based on an emotional reaction. You may not intend the tone of the message to come across emotionally. However, it easily could if you do not take the time to step back from the draft and — at the very least — review the message yourself later before hitting send.

Once we have crafted and reviewed our message, we can deliver it. For verbal delivery, like meeting or classroom-style presentations, ensure that you review the message and make notes. Run through it several times if possible. For this type of non-written delivery, I also like to send attendees a summary of the message, whether a meeting agenda or slideshow. This ensures that personnel who prefer to take the time to read things ahead of a meeting or presentation have the opportunity to do so. It promotes transparency and allows people to develop potential questions ahead of time.

After delivering the message, it is important to gather feedback. Encourage team members to deliver feedback whether in front of the group or privately, whichever they prefer. Transparency is perhaps the most critical facet of communication because it ties directly to credibility. Even if we do not intend to deceive others, if people perceive a lack of transparency our credibility suffers. Rebuilding credibility is not easy. Making ourselves open to feedback helps foster a transparent environment.

This process represents a simplified framework for quality communication that can apply to both internal and external communication initiatives. The real difference between internal and external communication comes down to goals. Internally, we look to motivate or get our team to work toward the realization of the vision and achievement of our goals. Externally, we look to get customers or stakeholders to purchase our product or services, or support our team in some fashion.

Communication is one of the most talked-about yet neglected leadership tools in the box of any organization. Developing and fostering effective communication frameworks and practices in your organization can strengthen trust and credibility, both internally and externally. That solid base of trust allows your organization to navigate difficult business environments and other issues that may arise. People know they can trust not only your organization but also the leaders of your organization to communicate efficiently and honestly.

Until next time, Capt. Fletch over and out.