Don't Leave Them In The Dark - Solve The Problem of Internal Communications

Updated: May 5

Poor internal communication erodes trust, an enormously avoidable self-inflicted injury.

Reading dozens of school communication audits has revealed that many schools suffer from poor

internal communication, just as other organizations and businesses do. Uncaring leaders don't typically cause a failure to communicate well. The failure occurs because the mission requires intense focus on external customers, and the attention is on them, not internal customers.

The cause is easy to diagnose, and we found an equally simple solution. Develop a process to communicate internally first, allowing time for review and response from employees and other internal stakeholders before sharing outside the organization.

Here's a story that came about after we committed to internal communication and became practiced at it.

The brand promise of my B2B business was, "we make your work less work." The small team responsible for innovation came up with a "brilliant" plan we hoped would spur a badly needed burst of sales, and we were eager to launch it. But internal communication discipline required that we first share the plan with everyone inside the company.

By this time, employees had learned to pay attention to shared plans and contribute ideas for improvement lest they get saddled with a program they didn't support.

I still remember a particularly searing comment shared during a meeting about the plan. A team member said, "We promise to make the customer's work less work, but if we do this, we'll make more work for our customer, not less." In other words, she thought we would be violating our brand promise for expediency.

When confronted with such a significant concern, I regret to say that I failed to listen and explore more. Instead, I launched into a defense of the plan and tried to explain the importance of spurring sales. Fortunately, I ended the meeting by promising to take additional time to consider what I'd heard, and we delayed the program launch.

At least I listened with my heart as well as my head. I could see the concern didn't rest with one person.

That one question led to a torrent of concerns about execution, our reputation, not making customers jump through unnecessary hoops to get discounts, and much more.

We didn't scrap the plan, but it was a much better version of the initial plan when it rolled out a few weeks later.

I encourage you to think through what could have happened. Front-line employees might have to execute a plan they didn't support. They would probably have felt commanded to implement the program "or else." But here's the worst outcome we avoided, and to explain it, I'll use the exact language someone in customer service told me.

"I feel like a mushroom, covered in shit and kept in the dark."

Building trust takes time and practice. It often feels like inviting others into the process causes unnecessary delays. But compared with the results of poor internal communications, it avoids countless mistakes while creating a more effective, productive, and engaged workforce. The goal is to roll out well-considered changes and intended improvements everyone can live with and support.