Have you ever played the game of Chinese Whispers? I’m sure you have. Though perhaps not intentionally.
Chinese Whispers is a game where a group of people form a line or circle and a message is passed from person to person using only whispers. When the message reaches the last person that person says it out loud. The words inevitably become distorted and meaningless, completely different to how the originator intended it.
Leaders can prevent the same thing happening in their business by taking ownership of their communications.
Communicate effectively or risk your message being misunderstood
The responsibility of communicating a message lies with the communicator. In the game of Chinese Whispers, the communicator is the first person in the line and they almost always end up feeling frustrated. That’s because they leave it to other people to convey their message down the chain. When this happens errors can occur, and in the workplace this is how gossip and rumours are spread.
If you want to take control of your communications and improve how you share information with your team, read on...
Prepare to deliver
It doesn’t matter who your audience is or how important the message you have to deliver, planning and preparation is key. In fact, the more time you spend preparing, the more likely you are to land your message effectively. So whether it’s a daily team briefing or a shareholder announcement, you should plan and prepare in exactly the same way.
How will you share information to ensure it’s clear and understood?
As a leader you’ll no doubt have a variety of different communications methods at your disposal. Email is the most common channel people turn to. It’s often an easy one to hide behind and not always the most appropriate option.
Consider all the communications channels you have at your disposal:
· Individual meeting
· Team meetings
· Coaching sessions
· Daily briefings
· Management meetings
· Shareholder meetings
· Board meetings
· Informal conversation
This list isn’t exhaustive but it demonstrates the importance of choosing the most appropriate means to convey your message effectively to your specific audience. For example, great leaders will choose to welcome a new team member in person. This way you can open the channels of communication and make your new recruit feel at ease. Give them an opportunity to ask questions so they leave feeling confident and can come to you with any concerns. Imagine being welcomed by your new employer via email. Your message just wouldn’t have the same impact and could leave a bitter taste.
How will you check what has been understood?
In Chinese Whispers, messages become distorted because people cannot hear the words properly. Sometimes people deliberately change the message to be clever or make the game more fun. Messages can also become confused when people are anxious, impatient, or emotionally involved. Could this be happening in your organisation?
When introducing new procedures or training people to do new tasks it is crucial to stop and check your audience’s understanding at regular intervals. This is vital to embed knowledge, build confidence, and ensure the message is clear. If the information hasn’t been understood in the way in which you’d intended, it’s time to go back to the preparation stage and ask yourself if you’ve focused sufficiently on the who, what, where, when, how and why.
It is far more productive to communicate effectively and get it right first time, rather than find your message has been misunderstood. So often things go wrong further down the line as a result of leaders not choosing the right way to communicate their message.
When you are confident in your own communication skills, you will deliver every message appropriately and drive efficiency in your organisation.
Would you benefit from developing your communications skills?
Zest for Life offers a variety of training methods and styles to help employees at every level to communicate messages right first time, every time. Just like all communications should be, our training is totally flexible to suit your individual needs. We offer:
· One-to-one coaching in person or over the phone
· Webinars at a time to suit you
· Scheduled 60-minute webinars for small groups at a pre-arranged time
· A Virtual Training Manager to provide regular support as part of your team
· Online task training tailored to your business.
Don’t rely on Chinese Whispers, find out more about our range of training methods and how they can work for your organisation at www.zflltd.com/approach