I’ve written before that silence is a loyalty killer. No communication chips away at trust, causing doubts to creep in and rumors to become a destroyer of all good in humanity. Or something close to that.

Partial communication is when something is said or alluded to and never explained or clarified. Many of the important elements in thorough communication are missing.

What are those elements?

The basics: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Vague communication does not garner results. That’s when you receive a memo from the big office, outlining something you’ve never heard of, and it doesn’t explain why you’re receiving the memo, what the next step in the process is, or the end result. You scratch your head, toss the memo in the bin of no return, and forget about it. That might be an extreme case. But the point is: you need all the facts to understand the big picture.

Another example: you’re in a meeting. Everyone is talking about the next big project. Someone pipes up: “We need to take care of this.” Heads nod, but no one is really listening because the comment is vague. Who is we? Take care of what? When will it be drafted and completed? What is this for? What is the desired end result? How will it be executed? Who needs to review it?

Clarity commands responsibility

Let’s take a look at the above example with better communication: Christine will lead the XYZ project. Lisa, Tom and Jason will be assisting her in this project. The outline explaining the project, what it will achieve, the necessary phases, and a time frame for each phase, needs to be drafted by the end of next week. Christine’s team will deliver the hard copy first thing Monday morning to Steven for his review. The review should take no more than two weeks. The next phase will begin immediately following his approval. The goal is to see a 30 percent increase in sales by the end of the third quarter.

There are some missing components, depending on the scope of the project, but you can see here there is clarity in roles of responsibility. Everyone knows what the project is, who is involved, when it needs to be executed, who approves it, and the expected results.

When communication is obscure or incomplete, not only is there not a sense of responsibility, but the lack of focus can breed contempt. Roles are not clearly defined, goals are ideas rather than something employees are actively trying to achieve, and tasks are stale. People want to be challenged. They want to be a part of something worthwhile, be a part of business growth, and feel valued. They need a sense of purpose to come to work every day.

Whether spoken or written, make sure your communication is clear. Be specific and avoid vague phrases. Be explicit on who is involved and what needs to be done. Give specific time frames so everyone is on the same page. Clearly define responsibilities and expectations.

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