The best policy to ensure your communication hits the mark

Here’s a funny experience I had last week at a resort hotel on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Night had fallen and my husband, Mike, and I were trying to turn on the light in the bedroom. The only problem was…there wasn’t one. Not a single light fitting in the room.

I realise it’s not uncommon for hotels to have dim lighting, but this took things to a whole new level - not even a bedside lamp! So here we were, blundering around in the dark using the light from our phones in the vain hope of finding a concealed light switch.

Confused, we reported our lack of illumination to Reception the next morning. The person behind the counter calmly explained that this was due to the hotel’s new “green policy” and if we wanted a bedside lamp we’d have to ask for one.

We duly lodged our request, and a short time later a staff member arrived at our room with two mismatched bedside lamps. Light was restored!

We had a good chuckle about this event - and it also struck me as a great reminder that any time there’s a risk of confusing your audience, be the first to communicate.

Hotel staff could have explained the green policy at check-in to avoid guests like us becoming perplexed and fumbling in the darkness. When we asked about it, we learned other visitors had also been caught out and had gone through the same bizarre lamp-request process.

Often, we avoid up-front communication because we’re afraid of a negative reaction. It seems safer to say nothing, than wait and see if there’s any fall-out. 

In global research conducted over more than 25 years on the qualities most often looked for and admired in a leader, honesty consistently comes out on top.

We need leaders and communicators who are visionary, inspiring and skilled at what they do, but at the end of the day we mostly want the facts and we want them straight - even if they’re not what we want to hear.

Even if you don’t have all the facts about an issue, don’t wait to communicate. Share what you know or what you can reveal, and acknowledge what you don’t know or the areas you can’t expand on.

In my experience working with organisations embroiled in negative public issues, the problem was never improved by holding back information. Those organisations prepared to be honest and transparent had a much better chance of rebuilding reputation.

The same can be said of us as individuals. If you want to be a powerful communicator, take the initiative. If an issue is likely to arise between you and a team member, customer or friend, don’t stand by in uncomfortable silence.

Be the one who takes the communication initiative and steps in to strengthen that relationship. Provide the light that addresses the issue, rather than letting the darkness take hold.

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