When we delve into the mechanics of workplace interactions, a persistent obstacle to collective success often comes to light: a disconnect in effective communication and the practice of listening with intention. 

Culture reviews consistently reveal that even the most astute and dedicated leaders can slip into a pattern of passive listening – hearing words without ever really grasping their essence.

This shortfall rarely stems from a lack of intelligence or diligence. Rather, it’s perhaps a symptom of the high pressure environments they operate in which unintentionally hinder their ability to engage in truly meaningful communication.

Leaders, even with their wealth of knowledge, often get swept up in the relentless tide of professional demands. This deluge may then lead to a superficial form of engagement where acknowledgements are given, but without the depth of real understanding, leading to a workplace where conversations are one-sided and employees feel overlooked.

Digital connection as a source of disconnection

The shift to digital mediums in the wake of COVID-19 has introduced an unexpected disconnect for many. The question arises: Has our move to an overwhelming number of online interactions diluted the quality of our engagements? 

The irony of our era is palpable – more ways to connect has somehow translated to less meaningful communication.

However, it's more complex than just fatigue. Our digitised pace can shatter our focus, making the already challenging act of listening (truly listening) even more difficult. As we flit from emails to virtual meetings, our attention splinters, diminishing our ability to engage fully.

We often see the effects in organisations when communication isn't handled well, including the way emails and other digital messages are crafted and distributed. For example, sending out generic emails or event invites without meaningful content or context. This approach never works, and can even have the opposite effect – causing the recipient to become completely disengaged and dissatisfied. 

Another area of concern is communication breakdown between business partners/directors, leading to misunderstandings and conflict. When this sort of situation continues unchecked, the results can have a substantial impact on decision making, business/organisational performance and the financial operation.Ultimately, it can also lead to dissolution of the partnership or company.

The way you communicate matters, and authentic communication will always be the cornerstone of any successful business. It’s crucial for leaders across all sectors to acknowledge this fact and double down on efforts to forge genuine connections with their teams, making sure everyone feels acknowledged and integral to the dialogue.

Creating connections that count

Creating a workplace where communication thrives starts with recognising the barriers. Whether it's the distraction of multitasking, the impersonal nature of digital dialogue or the stress of leadership, identifying these hurdles is the first step towards overcoming them.

Encouraging leaders to engage in active listening is not just about giving others the space to speak, but about showing a genuine interest in what they have to say. This means stepping out from behind screens and creating opportunities for valuable interaction. It also means taking the time to plan and write digital communications that are informative and interesting. 

When we work with clients, our aim is always to get to the heart of cultural issues – such as those stemming from disconnection and poor communication – so we can deliver recommendations that will bring about real and lasting change. 

This must start with leadership as it’s imperative for leaders to embody active communication and listening. They set the benchmark for others to emulate, and should be proactive in carving out time in their schedules to engage with teams and other leaders to prevent them feeling overlooked or undervalued. In turn this creates an environment where staff feel at ease to voice their thoughts, seek clarification and engage in open dialogue, thereby nurturing a culture of inclusivity and understanding.

Often, it can be highly beneficial to engage a third-party to cast a new light on overlooked communication practices and offer guidance to enrich team dynamics. 

At RSM, we provide a comprehensive suite of services – from reviewing business operations, assisting with communication strategies, undertaking organisational and cultural reviews, mediation between leaders or business partners/directors, and more – to equip organisations with the necessary skills to:

  •  nurture meaningful connections
  • promote business growth 
  • foster a resilient and productive workplace culture

Our approach is to promote an environment where collaboration thrives, ensuring every interaction adds value and every team member feels integral to the organisation's success.

To learn more about uncovering and addressing communication and organisational challenges in your business, contact Andrew Bowcher on (02) 6937 7001 or your local RSM office.