Partner Piece – Effective Leadership in UK businesses – Overcoming communication barriers

August 1, 2016

A few months ago, I was catching up on my various commentaries and came across an article in Profession Biz by John Benson and Lucy Green on overcoming communication barriers within organisations, which struck a real chord with me.

As a CEO within the accountancy sector, I understand how important effective communication is to the stability and growth of a business and how a successful organisation is one that supports and promotes a culture of clear, transparent and respectful communication both across and down the line of command.

Interestingly, according to Lucy Green’s article, a recent survey of 3500 organisations revealed that Trust was the number one cause sited by responders for not being able/willing to overcome communication barriers within their organisations.

That said, here’s a summary of John and Lucy’s suggestions for how you can build trust to avoid communication breakdowns and build high performance within your organisation:


Respect & Consideration for Others

Know about your team: the problems they are having, their concerns, their goals. Be there to support them when they need it and show gratitude for their efforts. Ensure that your decision-making checklist asks you to consider the impact of the decision on others and strategies to minimise any disruption it may cause.


Be Loyal to People who are Absent

People want to rest assured that when they aren’t around you will take care of them. This means that if someone is talking about a person who is absent in a less than complimentary way, you close the conversation down. You can do this by either saying “I don’t like to talk about others who aren’t around” or “Would you like me to help you have a conversation with (absent person’s name) about this issue?” People are reassured that you will not involve yourself in idle scuttlebutt – and the good news is when you shut these types of conversations down you free up an awful lot of time.


Have the Right Attitude

Do you know someone who is constantly judging you and you never quite seem to measure up? It’s pretty challenging isn’t it? Contrast that with someone who is accepting of you and sees the best in you. With this second person, you are probably more inclined to be more open and honest with him/her. You probably have a better relationship. Your attitude towards another person will very much dictate the level of communication. A negative attitude towards another person or even another department is a major communication barrier in many organisations.


Get Alongside People

Trust is built from knowing someone and liking them. To get to that point, you need to spend time with the person. So if you are a “hold-your-cards-close-to-your-chest” kinda (person) or “I-have-an-open-door-come-and-see-me-whenever-you-want” type you will find it much more challenging to have effective relationships. Withholding information or simply not being available (physically and emotionally) leads to suspicion and lack of motivation. Effective communicators establish a climate that allows dialogue to flow in a spontaneous and natural way.


Keep Promises

It takes just one broken promise to lose the trust of another. This can be as simple as not getting back to somebody at 1.00 pm on Friday as you had promised. Unfortunately, our everyday language is filled with the potential for broken promises. “I’ll get back to you” “Maybe we can get together next week”. Rather than fall into this trap be specific, set a time, then deliver to that time. (“Always”) under-promise and over-deliver.


Agree Norms

Differing expectations of what is/is not acceptable within your team is often the cause of much friction. To smooth out some of these disagreements, develop with your team a set of guidelines/norms that they will use to hold each other accountable. Norms define boundaries and enable people to hold open and frank discussions when someone isn’t performing to the expected standard.


Effective strategic management of any organisation has to be a team effort. That means that good communication between individuals and across teams is essential. The extent to which an organisation can create a culture that consciously seeks to overcome communication barriers, may be the difference between a business thriving or failing.

If you are looking to move to the next level with your business, and would like to find out how I can support your strategic management goals, please feel free to get in touch at

For more information on Gerald Edelman please see our website.


The information above does not in any way constitute advice. Specialist expertise and support is highly recommended for any strategic management initiatives you wish to develop for your business.

quote marks icon