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Creating a Communications Culture to Enhance Performance

By Manya Arond-Thomas

A pervasive challenge in organizations today is the lack of
performance management systems that support high-performance
cultures. While there are a number of elements that support
a performance culture, there are two powerful conversation
tools that must provide the foundation for any solid
performance management system - adequate and appropriate
feedback mechanisms within the organization, and effective
use of requests and promises.

The Gallup organization researched what makes a great
workplace in a survey (the Q12) that involved 80,000
managers in a multi-year research project. The survey
identified 12 dimensions that characterize a great workplace
and positively impact employee retention, customer
satisfaction, productivity and profitability.
Significantly, six of the twelve dimensions reflect on the
quality of communication within the organization and
contribute to organizational climate, which in itself
predicts 20-30% of business results. They are:

-- I know what is expected of me at work.
-- In the last week, I have received recognition or praise
for doing good work.
-- My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me
as a person.
-- There is someone at work that encourages my development.
-- In the last six months, someone at work has talked with
my about my progress.
-- At work, my opinion seems to count.

Create Adequate Feedback Mechanisms in Your Organization

Performance reviews are standard fare, yet research shows
that most employees feel they do not receive adequate
feedback on how they"'re doing, what"'s expected, what they
need to do to improve, and how to be as successful as they
would like. There are several venues through which to give
and get feedback "V supervisory reporting relationships, 360
assessments, mentoring and coaching relationships.

Giving Effective Feedback:
1. Agree on goals and/or performance standards to be met.
2. Be descriptive, not evaluative
3. Give sufficient positive feedback
4. Beware of over-reliance on negative feedback.
5. Don't withhold negative critical information in order to
avoid hassle.
6. Give ongoing feedback and be timely with respect to
particular events or situations.
7. Give specific examples and guidelines rather than being
vague and general.

Understand the Anatomy of Effective Requests and Promises

The purpose of communication in business is to make
agreements on how we are going to take action to achieve the
outcomes and results we want. What drives action and
creates velocity are requests and promises. This is the
lifeblood of business communication.

An effective request must contain three elements:

- Saying exactly what you want.
- Saying exactly when you want it.
- And saying exactly who you want it from

Note that the operative word here is exactly. The more
precise you are in your requests, the greater the likelihood
that you"ll get what you want or expect.

Certain actions, or lack thereof, create confusion,
resentment, communication breakdown, and thus unmet goals.
Common ways we sabotage our communications are by:

- Making unclear requests
- Not making requests
- Not communicating expectations
- Promising when unclear about the request
- Not declining requests
- Breaking promises without mending the break

If you need to improve performance in your organization,
take a close look at the effectiveness of your
organization"'s feedback mechanisms, and the skill level
people have with these essential communication tools. With
appropriate training supported by follow-on coaching, you
can improve individual and organizational performance
relatively quickly.

(c) Copyright 2003. Manay Arond-Thomas, all rights reserved.

About the Author

Manya Arond-Thomas, M.D., is the founder of Manya
Arond-Thomas & Company, a coaching and consulting firm that
catalyzes the creation of "right results" through
facilitating executive development, high-performance teams
and organizational effectiveness. She can be reached at
(734) 480-1932 or e-mailed at manya@arond-thomas.com.
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