Effective leaders use communication as a tool to motivate and inspire, convey critical thoughts and ideas and to persuade others. If communication is lacking, important information can be misinterpreted, causing relationships to suffer and ultimately, creating barriers that hinder progress.
There are six main types of workplace communication:
- Active Listening
At MHC, each type of communication plays a vital role in successfully sharing information with your team members and patients and it is important that you have an understanding of the main benefits and drawbacks of each type of workplace communication.
Informal communication is an official term for casual conversations shared between team members. It tends to be more personal and because of that, one of the main benefits of encouraging and harnessing informal communication in the workplace is that it helps to build strong working relationships as well as promoting effective teamwork.
Informal communication can also be utilised to address minor misconduct situations. If a team member is not meeting MHC standards, or is often running late, an informal chat can often solve the problem without having to give them an intimidating formal warning that goes on their record.
The main drawback of informal communication is how it can sometimes lead to gossiping or inappropriate conversions which may offend some people or get out of hand and actually start to damage the company culture.
As a leader at MHC, it is important to remind team members, if necessary, that if informal communication gets out of hand that they should avoid saying or writing anything that might hurt someone or jeopardise someone’s job.
At MHC, formal communication is used to communicate in an official and professional manner with a patient, senior colleague or a stakeholder from outside of MHC. In general, you would avoid using slang and being too familiar or casual in a formal communication with one of these types of people.
While formal communication might not be the most commonly used type of workplace communication, it is highly beneficial in these types of situations:
- When you email someone for the first time, especially if that person is more senior than you, a patient or stakeholder outside of MHC
- When you need to share serious or procedural information with your team
- When you send a follow-up email after a meeting to confirm what was discussed and any next steps you agreed on
The main benefit of formal communication is clarity, strength and respect.
Verbal or oral communication is when you communicate by speaking. Having effective verbal communication also helps to build a relationship and gauge people’s reactions. Elements of speaking like, two-way conversation, the tone in someone’s voice or the look on someone’s face go a long way in building rapport.
Another benefit of verbal communication is how easy it is to make sure your message is received in the right way. If someone looks confused or a bit taken aback from something you’ve said, you have the opportunity to clear up any issues right away.
While it is great for avoiding miscommunication, the biggest drawback of verbal communication is not having a record of exactly what was said (unless of course you record a conversation). Written communication makes it easier to refer back to what has been discussed if questions arise at a later date.
If you want to understand a team members motivations, thoughts, and goals better, practice asking open-ended questions.
Use the acronym TED, which stands for:
“Tell me more.”
“Explain what you mean.”
“Define that term or concept for me.”
By leveraging those phrases when speaking with your team, you can elicit more thoughtful, thorough responses and ensure you also have clarity around what they need from you to succeed.
Non-verbal communication is everything other than words that people use when communicating. People pick up on more than just words in a conversation including things like:
- Body language – when giving feedback
- Tone of voice – when giving instructions
- Facial expressions – when reacting to an idea someone might not agree with
- Eye contact – when someone is listening
- Intonation – especially when talking on the phone
- Interaction – remembering personal details
- General disposition – when someone is working on a deadline or a tricky project
Effective non-verbal communication leads to clearer, more positive and effective communication overall. It is essentially the best mate of verbal communication. The right body language stimulates a productive conversation. Alternatively, the wrong body language can get someone offside quickly. So, the more your non-verbal cues align with your verbal message, the more successful your communication with your team will be.
The main drawback of encouraging non-verbal communication is when your team members use it without much thought. An inadvertent yawn, slouching posture or un-engaging tone of voice can ruin a meeting or worse, turn a patient off. So, it is important that as a leader at MHC, you take some time to give your team members some helpful pointers around using positive non-verbal cues across all types of workplace communication.
The most important communication skill for leaders is the ability to listen. Professional listening skills include listening for the message, listening for any emotions behind the message and considering relevant questions about the message.
Listening for the message means hearing the facts accurately, without prejudgment or being distracted by other thoughts. It’s also important to listen for any unusually strong stresses in the sentences or other signs of emotion.
Effective leaders know when they need to talk and, more importantly, when they need to listen. Listening to what a team member says or doesn’t say, how they say it, their body language, and what information they share about their preferences, values, and experiences shows you care.
Written communication includes hand-writing or typing words (and numbers) to share information. Emails, company messenger platforms, text messages, letters, PowerPoint presentations and even short handwritten post-it notes all come under written communication.
Written communication offers five main benefits, including:
Putting information into written words is a great way to organise your message. Laying words out in a visually appealing way (using bullet points, tables and subheadings for example) can help you and other people digest that information quickly and comprehensively.
Writing makes it easier to be clear and concise when communicating complex information. It also allows you to edit and get your message as close to perfect as possible before delivering it.
When there is confusion about when something was submitted or if someone asks you about what happened in a meeting from last month and you remembered to write notes, you can refer back to your notes or emails when your memory deserts you.
Written words leave a detailed trail, this gives you facts if you’re ever questioned about something down the line.
When you need to communicate with a team whose calendars are full, a quick email, presentation or collaborative document explaining the input you need from everyone can save time.
The main drawback of written communication is that it’s hard to convey tone. This makes it easier for someone to take your message the wrong way if they don’t understand some of the words or punctuation marks you chose to use. For example, a misplaced exclamation mark can be mistaken for yelling rather than excitement.