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All communication consists of three elements – the ‘sender’ who originates the communication, the message that is being communicated, and one or more ‘receivers’ of the message.

Communication can be verbal, written or in non-verbal body language or signing to convey a message which is received by one or more people. True ‘communication’ is the message that was understood by the receiver and not necessarily what the sender thought they had communicated.

Clear communication is important for the following reasons:

  • it improves efficiency in all activities
  • it reduces the frustration which arises from misunderstandings
  • it promotes clear and structured thinking
  • clear communication involves putting oneself in another person’s place; it leads to enhanced understanding of other people and to more effective management of relationships. This does not mean that relationships are necessarily more harmonious, although this may be the case.

Communicating clearly can be surprisingly hard work because of the following:

  • we sometimes ‘speak before thinking’
  • we shoot off a quick email without considering the impact it will have or the impression it may make on those who receive it
  • we use words and phrases that may not be fully understood by others (e.g. jargon)
  • we assume that the other person has the same background knowledge of the situation or issue as you do
  • we assume that the other person is from the same cultural background as you.

Communication can go wrong because of the following:

  • the message is not clear in the sender’s mind
  • the words of the message do not adequately express the thoughts in the sender’s mind
  • the words of the message are not consistent with non-verbal messages also being given out by the sender
  • the receiver does not understand the words of the message
  • assumptions or prejudices in the mind of the receiver may hinder the correct understanding of the message
  • cultural values find certain forms of communications offensive.

Methods of Communication:

MethodAdvantagesDisadvantagesBest Use
Oral PresentationCaptive audience Allows for questions and answers Body language can be monitored Everyone receives the same message at the same timeMay take some time to set up Not everyone will be able to attend Some may not feel confident in asking questionsWhen immediate feedback is required When giving information to individuals is required
Written PresentationCan be read more than once Written recordMay not be received or read May not be interpreted correctlyWhen a written response is required There are less time constraints A formal record is required
EmailCan send to many people at once Written record Audit trailMay not be received or read by all Misinterpretation No access to emailFor large numbers
NoticeboardWide coverage Message gets spread by othersMay not be seen or read MisinterpretationNoncritical information
Internal memoWhen a written record is requiredMisinterpretation No opportunity for clarityConfidential information
One to one oral communicationStaff development Career progression Confidence buildingLack of trust in the manager (all words no action)Professional development

N.B.  Always adapt communication styles to suit your audience (remember the VARK questionnaire)

Communicating an organisation’s strategy

As a team leader you should be able to explain the organisation’s strategy and the team’s purpose and how as an individual a person fits into the bigger picture.  Effective leadership ensures that the organisation has an established vision and strategy.  As a team leader you are as good as your team perceives you to be.  Helping them to understand their role eliminates ambiguity and helps motivate them.