Effective Communication

Effective communication is essential to organizational success as it enables informed decision making and it creates transparency and accountability. Working from a common knowledge base helps organizations eliminate confusion and future problems.

Address Multiple Levels

Organizational communication must be addressed at many levels. For instance, clear and timely communication is vital to the board of directors to ensure everyone has the information they need to make sound decisions.

Communication between the board and staff ensures what’s decided in the boardroom filters through to those doing the work.

Communication from the staff to the board provides important feedback so the board can measure the effectiveness of initiatives and quickly correct problems.

Communication from the board of directors to members is paramount to success too. If members do not understand the reasoning behind decisions, it can cause discontent or alienation. In turn, this can lead to a loss of confidence in leaders and sometimes the decision making process.

Finally, the organization must be able to effectively communicate their vision and goals to external parties. Dealing with third-parties properly involves clarifying the organization’s position to avoid misunderstanding and future problems.

Develop & Refine Your Communication Strategy

As communication is so important on so many levels, organizations should establish a communication strategy.

A communication strategy describes how the organization will approach communication to attain its vision and goals. It also includes how it will handle word-of-mouth information, printed materials, press conferences, media, community outreach, special events, and more.
Finally, it defines the responsibilities of those involved in the process, starting with the Board of Directors.

This roadmap can create long-term success and keep everyone on the same page.

Clarify Communication Roles

The Chairperson of the Board is the Board’s official spokesperson. They comment on governance issues, governmental matters, changes to the board, and other matters. They may also comment on behalf of the CEO in their absence.

The CEO is the primary spokesperson on operational matters such as human resources and facilities and services. They may appoint someone from management to comment on specific matters such as finances. They are also the key interface between the staff and board.

The secretary records meeting minutes and maintains the corporation’s documents and records. They ensure the board has access to the information they need to make decisions.

Board members should understand their roles and responsibilities from the moment they are recruited as some information will be confidential. A communication policy describing their duties can help avoid potential problems, including legal ramifications.

Communication responsibilities may also fall on the shoulders of staff, committee members, or community members. Each needs to understand their responsibilities and limitations and this information should be included in the communication policy.

Proper Meeting Protocols

Board and committee meetings are where most decisions occur within an organization. To avoid misunderstanding, ensure transparency, protect confidentiality, and ensure efficiency organizations must follow proper meeting protocols.

Attention to procedure is particularly appropriate where the matters to be dealt with at a meeting are expected to be contentious. Robert’s Rules of Order is the most commonly accepted procedure followed by organizations and recommended for all organizational meetings of importance.

The foundation of an effective meeting starts with a clear, focused agenda. It is shared well in advance of a meeting with all attendees. When the meeting is called to order, attendees work through the agenda one item at a time and the secretary records meeting minutes.

Minutes provide a short version of all important discussions and decisions. They can be referenced for clarity, accountability, and as a legal record of what transpired. Procedures often vary between in-camera board meetings and public meetings with the board.

Communicate Outside of Meetings

Interactions must occur outside of the boardroom if an organization is to succeed. Communicating effectively involves building relationships.

Openness and transparency is imperative and board members should strive to interact on a personal level with the staff, each other, members, and external stakeholders, whenever possible.

Board leadership can collaborate remotely when in-person meetings aren’t practical or feasible. A quick call or email keeps parties up-to-date and can highlight roadblocks or concerns. However, in most cases decisions should be made at formal meetings.

Establish Collaboration Tools

Organizations must establish effective communication channels. They must decide which information can be shared via email and what must be protected.

Tools that track tasks are also very important. For instance, during a meeting it may be necessary to delegate a task to an individual. Board management tools can be used to follow up and eliminate confusion.

Organizations also need to store and share documents, some with access restrictions to protect confidentiality. Others will be made available to members to demonstrate transparency.

Continually Evaluate Your Communication Strategy

Organizational communication strategies should evolve. Some strategies will work well, while others won’t. Situations can change without notice and an organization’s approach must reflect that.

As a result, it is important to measure progress, success, and failures. If the board decides on change, they must properly document it and distribute it to employees and members to eliminate confusion. These parties aren’t usually privy to discussions held behind boardroom doors and this information helps everyone work cohesively.

However, the board must also measure the effectiveness of new changes. Asking for feedback, tracking miscommunications, and measuring productivity are often good yardsticks.