Is Poor Communication Undermining the Culture at Your Firm?

Michelle Golden’s Golden Practices blog contains a great post entitled, “If Internal Communication is Poor, Can You Still Have A “Great Culture?” She warns that firms that take their ‘great culture’ for granted are playing with fire. She lists seven ways in which firms undermine their ‘great culture’ by failing to communicate personally with people about important things:

  1. Notifying people by memo or e-mail about their colleague, even manager, having been “let go”
  1. Relying on the informal gossip chain to replace formal presentations of “state of the firm” or goals, visions, and other important news or changes
  1. “Leakage” of preliminary information (often by owners to select team members) about pending policies, pending raises or bonuses, or other critical economic information, such that a mention or two to friends means pretty soon the whole firm “knows” — often it isn’t even final so the info may be wrong(!)
  1. Rolling out new programs or policies by memo or e-mail with no formal presentation to personally introduce it, frame it with appropriate background information, answer questions, and create enthusiasm
  1. Not telling people (hopefully publicly!) that they have done a great job
  1. Not telling people privately AND constructively how they could do something better
  1. Telling people anything personal, corrective, or negative by e-mail (and cc’ing others is a very, very bad idea)

I have a few more failures of communication that undermine what would otherwise be a great place to work:

  1. Not communicating with the firm about new hires (and not being prepared for their arrival)
  1. Not telling people that a program, initiative or policy has been abandoned (possibly due to lack of enthusiasm or appropriate communication in the first place — see #4)
  1. Promoting someone or changing their job description and failing to clearly communicate the change to others on the team – particularly where the change involves a change in authority or chain of command
  1. Not communicating the ‘big picture’ to the whole team – failing to let people know how their role contributes to the whole, not informing the team of the results of an engagement or not reporting feedback from clients

and to make it an even dozen:

  1. Not listening (this could be a list in itself!) – actively discouraging input or acting in a way that sends a message that the other person isn’t valued (not being ‘present’ for the communication – answering emails, doing paperwork or taking calls during the conversation or meeting, having side conversations, or focusing on the intended response rather than being open to another point of view)

Take a good look at the way your firm communicates, and make sure you aren’t ruining what would otherwise be a ‘great culture’ by making these mistakes.

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Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

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