Developing an Effective Communication Strategy

Fitness center managers need to develop a strategy to effectively communicate with staff.

Several common communication errors occur in the workplace, each of which can destroy trust among teammates, break down team unity, and have a negative effect on team performance. Fitness center managers should have a plan in place so that the following communication problems do not occur in their facilities.

Communication errors

Not having a communication strategy. Some organizations never think of having a communication strategy. Either they don't see a need to share much information, or they figure they can communicate however they wish, and it will work.

Shooting from the hip. Sometimes communication does have to take place without first carefully understanding how the audience will perceive it, and what exactly the goal is. However, making a habit of communicating before you have appropriately planned out the purpose for and intent of its message is a misstep. This includes reactionary communication without forethought about the true intended message and, more importantly, without considering how the message will be perceived.

Pointing fingers and belittling people and teams. Do not assign specific blame for the failure to achieve a goal. While a need will always exist to identify the causes of failure, it must never be done in a public venue. Also, using team communications to personally attack the performance of a person in such a way that it belittles them in front of other employees is an error. There is nothing wrong with bringing attention to performance that does not meet expectations, but it should never belittle the people involved.

Not sharing all the facts. In many organizations, leadership hordes information to have a greater sense of control. Unfortunately, when fitness managers hide the facts, the company rumor mill takes over, often causing the line between fact and fiction to blur.

Letting rumors exist. Organizations that either fail to communicate important messages or hide many of the facts end up supporting rumor mills, or what many individuals refer to as the "informal organizational communication hotline." This always results in morale and performance problems. While it is nearly impossible to eliminate rumor mills, the organization can eliminate much, if not all, of the negative effect of the rumor mill by making sure the appropriate information is communicated through the proper channels. Furthermore, if and when misinformation is out in the workplace, it is essential that facility management cleans it up.

Using the wrong communication tools for messages. Without a well-thought-out communication strategy, fitness centers are likely to experience a host of problems that result from messages being sent through the wrong communication vehicles. For example, sharing a team performance issue at a general employee meeting, or using email when an internal Intranet might be better. Fitness managers must know what they want to say, and then make sure to communicate the intended messages using the proper tool.

Assuming everyone got the message. Most organizations have a preferred communication process, and just assume that once they disseminate the information, all of the desired audiences got the message. It is important to note that people receive messages in different ways, not to mention that they often need to receive the message a few times before it sinks in. As a result, if the message is important, and most team messages are, the organization should make sure to communicate it a few times using different media.

Thinking communication is a one-way street. All too often, management assumes that as long as they are sending out information, they are effectively communicating. Unfortunately, such an attitude is a common pitfall of many organizations. In that regard, it is critical that every fitness center's communication strategy addresses the need to listen and solicit feedback. If facility managers don't listen to their employees, they may never know how to most effectively communicate with them.

Over-communicating. Believe it or not, some organizations over-communicate. The operators in these facilities fall into the habit of not prioritizing what information is important, and what is not necessary to share. These operators overwhelm their employees with messages, and, as a result, employees either ignore the information, or are unable to identify what is important and what is not.

Mastering the obstacles

Obviously, not all successful organizations communicate in exactly the same way. On the other hand, important similarities exist. One of the commonalities is the ability to be aware of and address in an appropriate manner the communication errors that can hinder, if not totally preclude, effective communication. Teams that are able to consistently surmount these barriers will be more likely to achieve their potential.
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