Communication Fundamentals: On track or time to get back to basics?

I'm a communications junkie.  LinkedIn Updates and eNewsletters feed my craving and my inbox is full - 10 rules of content marketing, essential skills for social media success, blogging nightmares to avoid, creating contagious content, thought leadership to drive business goals, storytelling that sticks and the list goes on.

All great stuff, yet what I notice though, and maybe you do too is the focus on external communication, on the customer.  Yes it’s important, yet, it’s only going to bring a return when you have internal buy-in, when employees are invested in delivering on what your selling – your brand promise. 

What creates that buy-in? The leadership communication happening in your company every day.  Are your leaders owning their communication?  Are they paying attention to what they say and the way they say it? Do they know if their “message” is received and understood? These are communication fundamentals and without them, well, all your external efforts could be a waste of time and money.

Let’s press the pause button, for just a few moments, and think about the fundamentals. It won’t take long. It could reinforce that you’re right on track or, that it’s time to get back to the basics.


Fundamental #1: Communication is the responsibility of the sender.

Are leaders in your company wondering “why employees don’t get it?”  We naturally assume we communicate effectively, and that if anything goes wrong, it’s the responsibility of the recipient.  That’s a fundamental mistake.

It’s up to you to continually check that your message has been received, understood and correctly interpreted.  Take responsibility for your results:

  • Make sure your idea is clear in your mind. If it’s not, then don’t be surprised if others get a different idea than what you intended.
  • In addition to preparing and presenting your message, stay alert for any signs that your audience are mis-interpreting it.  Listen.  Ask for feedback.
  • If your communications don’t seem to be working try something else. And if that doesn’t’ work, try something else until you find what works.


Fundamental #2 – 93% of communication is non-verbal

This percentage comes from psychologist Albert Mehrabian’s 1971 research and is still often quoted today. He came to the conclusion that face-to-face communication comprises three elements: words (account for 7%), tone of voice (accounts for 38%) and body language (accounts for 55%). If there is a dis-connect between the verbal and non-verbal, you’re likely sending a mixed message.

What your body communicates is more accurate than what you say, and it speaks before you do. People can often tell what you’re thinking or feeling before you speak.  And your actions can speak so loudly they drown out your words.

The way you listen, look, move, and react tells the other person whether or not you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening. When your non-verbal signals match the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and understanding. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust, and confusion. 

  • Check your body language. Video and review a rehearsal session for your next employee presentation. Is your body reinforcing your words? What changes do you need to make?
  • Ask for feedback on the non-verbal signals you may be sending.
  • Since only 7% of your words contribute to understanding, choose them well. You’ll become a better communicator for your effort.


Fundamental #3 – Communication is a process

And the process goes in this order - sender, message, channel, receiver, feedback.

The sender develops an idea, which is translated into a message and then transmitted through a channel(s) to a receiver who interprets the message and receives a meaning.

And if all goes according to the process, the meaning is the one the sender intended and you’re on your way to influencing behavior.

The most efficient way to start this process is at the end. 

  • Start with the feedback.
  • Do a communications audit. Ask your receiver (your audience), what they need, how they would like to communicate and with whom?   

When you follow the communication process, you’ll be one step ahead by delivering the right message, at the right time, in the right way, to the right audience.

How is your company doing on the communication fundamentals?  Are you on track or is it time to get back to basics?



Posted by
Nancy van Heesewijk 
on May 29, 2015

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