Effective communication is critical in a manufacturing environment. Communication, good and bad, directly impacts the bottom line. It can be the difference between a successful year and a prosperous one.
Too often, leaders and managers broadcast instead of communicating, ignoring the impact of corporate policies and decisions on their own workforce.
One example of this disconnect is when leadership fails to convey excitement about new workers joining the company. The new workers, detecting the company’s hesitation to engage and include them, build resentment and apprehension. After not embracing the team member, the company is puzzled why they do not meet their expectations.
In reality, the company broadcast to the new worker that they are expected to fail—and when they fail, the corporation blames the worker instead of leadership.
When you communicate, you increase trust. When you broadcast, no such bond develops.
Broadcasters disseminate content to a large group without expecting a particular degree of participation or response. The intended audience may or may not be engaged, and the broadcaster is largely unaware of engagement that does occur. The audience may not be interested or may not understand the content being conveyed. Regardless, delivery of the broadcast continues.
Communication is the delivery of information and understanding from one person to another. Communication requires interaction, feedback and adjustment. Effective communication results in a common understanding relative to the material conveyed. While not everyone may agree on what to do with the information, there is a common understanding of the information conveyed.
Consider these points of comparison between communication and broadcasting:
- Builds confidence in the people engaged.
- Builds trust even if there is disagreement.
- Informs people of the speaker’s intention and other important information.
- De-escalates tense situations. It is disarming to converse with someone.
- Combats misinformation.
- Eliminates rumors.
- Is a conversation. Not a sermon or a lecture.
Tools and tips for people interested in communication with others.
- Most of all, relax. If you can’t relax, delay the interaction. Discomfort, tension and pressure may be misinterpreted as anger or frustration.
- Expect the best in others. People rise and fall to your expectations. Expect them to be successful in your conversation.
- Listen to the other person. Be certain your body language indicates interest.
- Avoid interrupting the other person. Pause before every response. Think about what was just said, and why it was said.
- Pause before speaking. Choose your words very carefully. Say them in your head and ask yourself, “Can this be misinterpreted?” If the answer is yes, change the words.
- Paraphrase the other parties’ comments. This assures understanding. You will be surprised how often people will correct you when they hear their message repeated.
- Acknowledge the other persons’ feelings. You are not agreeing, but you are confirming that their feelings are truly their feelings.
- Avoid folding your arms and other signs you are not listening. Avoid building symbols of walls or barriers between yourself and the other person or people.
- If the conversation or meeting starts to get out of control, pause or reschedule the discussion.
- Do not weaponize communication to be punitive. Confidence lost is extremely difficult to recover.
- Deborah Tannen wrote an excellent book about communication titled “That’s Not What I Meant.” In her book, she talks in detail about messaging: What people really hear and why they hear it. I encourage everyone serious about communication to read it. It will make a difference.
When team members are recognized and treated like an asset, they will be assets. People rise or fall to meet your expectation. Don’t just hope your new team member will succeed; expect it.
Invest in your team. Invest time training and mentoring. Most of all listen to your team, and make sure they know you are listening. Listen to them like they are your biggest customer.
When communication is established in an organization, trust begins and the business culture can be defined and communicated. People become engaged, and change is possible.
Carl Livesay is the general manager at Mercury Plastics in Baltimore. Carl brings more than 40 years of operational leadership and manufacturing experience as a lean practitioner. He currently serves on the BOD for the Maryland World Class Consortia and is appointed to both the District Export Council and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board.