By 1999, one of the biggest automotive manufacturers was deep in the red and rapidly losing market share. The organization needed a lifeline—and fast—or it would be forced to shutter. By 2000, however, it was once again profitable and, by 2001, the company’s debt was cut in half. A new executive’s transformative leadership behind this turnaround included a focus on improving communication both at micro and macro levels within the organization.
From being the first company president to directly communicate his vision to employees worldwide via video broadcast, to encouraging open discussion in high-level meetings, to holding question-and-answer sessions with employees, he proved his understanding of communication’s importance, especially in an international company operating in a global economy.
"Because we have people from so many different countries and cultures, we pay a lot of attention to how we communicate,” he explains.
But it wasn’t just micro-level changes, like hosting more interactive meetings or speaking to his employees directly that brought about more open and transparent communication. It also came down to his belief that communication benefits from sharing and openly debating various viewpoints.
“If you don’t see different aspects of a decision and different options, you can’t make a good decision,” he explains. Debate, therefore, has played a prime role in the automotive manufacturer’s turnaround, as have cross-functional teams which more readily breed debate.
“The problem at many large companies is that individual teams only hold a piece of the solution, but they don’t talk to each other to assemble those pieces together,” he explained. When he needed his employees to share ideas and build better plans, he put together the organization’s first cross-functional teams, a tenet of his management style, to facilitate debate and improve organization-wide communication.
Thanks in part to these communication improvements, the brand was not only saved but has grown to become an auto industry giant.
Better communication amongst employees is to thank for much of the company’s success. And the employees who more readily adapted to the new communication styles, including both understanding how to efficiently get their point across and learning English, the company’s new official, global-friendly language, were best poised to receive promotions and recognition.
In an increasingly global economy, communication grows in importance and poses bigger challenges. So, how can today’s professionals best adapt?
What does good communication look like?
Communication is “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.” It’s also called “the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.”
When it comes to business, the best managers don’t just share information that will help their employees understand the company’s mission and what their part is in achieving it. They also work to determine the best communication methods – verbal, nonverbal, and/or written—for their team, both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
“The most effective managers understand who they are communicating to, not just what the message is,” says Leif Einar Feiring, Badenoch + Clark’s Regional Head of the Nordics. “This is why, when helping to place professionals, we find that candidates who can communicate well are usually the ones our clients prefer to hire.”
How can you sharpen your communication skills?
Communication is essential for understanding goals and collaborating to achieve them. So, how can you improve your communication skills? Feiring suggests the following ways to polish your communication abilities:
- Ask for feedback from colleagues
- Listen to how others are communicating
- Speak in front of crowds, big and small
- Write internal communications to your teams, or if you get the chance, pen blog articles, to practice organizing your thoughts around a specific message or a larger theme
Laurent da Silva, Badenoch + Clark’s General Manager of Professional Recruitment France, notes that when it comes to communication, the most important factor is emotional intelligence.
“If you have true emotional intelligence, then your communication will be perfect,” he says. “In fact, emotional intelligence is the main asset we expect from anyone who’s a manager or above.” He points out that it’s important to clearly understand expectations on both sides—to ascertain what the person or group you’re communicating to expects—and to adapt your message and delivery in a way that your audience will understand.
Every great career is a constant work in progress. No matter how much you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come, we believe that you can always keep learning and improving. That’s what we’re doing. You may notice that Badenoch + Clark has a new look and feel—one that represents our commitment to keep evolving. In this way, we hope to be the best possible career partner for you. Speak with someone at Badenoch + Clark to learn more about how you can grow your career.