While sitting in the departure lounge of a busy airport recently, I heard a message being broadcast on the PA system.
My airline was updating the status of my flight. As I strained to hear the exact details, another announcement was being made at an adjoining gate regarding a completely different flight. And then within a few more seconds, yet another message from another gate was broadcast.
As all of these messages, and the collateral noise coming from nearby televisions and dozens of passenger conversations, blended into wall of static noise so formidable, it was impossible to focus on the original message about my flight.
I was hardly alone in my frustration.
As I looked around, I could see dozens of other confused passengers, all trying to pick out the information they needed from the colliding messages. We were all very frustrated. Some just gave up and tuned out the noise. Other passengers scrambled to their gate to get a clarification from airline personnel.
On this business trip, I counted five messages being broadcast all at the same time. It created an atmosphere that was absolutely crazy bordering on the kind of comedy sketch you’d see on an episode of Key and Peele.
I travel a lot for business and I just can’t understand why airlines continue to create so much confusion with competing, overlapping messages. However, even as I was lamenting the lack of coordination among the airlines, it immediately struck me that this is a problem that extends well beyond the confines of an airport.
Every day in our organizations, employees are bombarded with messages of all kinds: directives from the CEO; memos from human resources; bulletins from finance and IT. Like the airport experience, rarely is there any coordination of these messages. They are just dumped on employees without any regard to the impact they are having.
Like the confusion surrounding airline announcements, it’s hard for the average employee to sort through overlapping and competing messages to figure out what is being communicated and what they are being asked to do.
Like those fellow travellers who were with me at the airport, these muddled messages will have a variety of impacts on our employees: some will get frustrated, even angry; others will just tune out.
The airport muddle was a reminder to me that it’s incumbent upon us as leaders to ensure that the content and method in our messages are as clear as they can be.
Take a moment to reflect on your own messages:
- Do your messages confuse or bring clarity?
- Do your messages misalign or align people?
- Do your messages disengage or engage those that you lead?
It’s important as leaders that we work with other leaders in our organizations to ensure focused and aligned communication. How, you may ask, can you do that?
Consistent, effective communication is the product of collaboration among leaders who are committed to a common message. Communication is also aided immensely when leaders in different functions and business units give each other feedback about what is working, and what is not working.
And, most importantly, when they coordinate communication so that employees are not bombarded with overlapping, even conflicting messages.
In today’s world, it’s critical that our most important messages get through to the people we lead.
This week’s Gut Check question asks: are you sending clear messages to the people you lead?
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About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro