Effective communication with staff is an essential component of a successful business. Done well it helps a business thrive, done badly it's guaranteed to cause problems. We all communicate hundreds of times a day in a myriad of ways. So if communication is so intrinsic to our nature, why is it that some business people are good communicators and others are bad?

Whether it's one member of staff or 100,000, communication must be managed if it's to be effective. Typically, the most successful way to ensure inclusive and effective communication is to use 'carrots and sticks'. This may sound simplistic but if it's utilised within a range of communication methods, the results can be immediate and sustainable.

So how do you use it?

1) Authenticity. Most successful business leaders are truly authentic - they lead by example. It's imperative to avoid double standards of behaviour; communication is not just written or verbal. Your behaviour creates your business culture and determines whether your staff listen to you or switch-off whenever you're around. If you don't set the standards, no amount of 'carrot and stick' will be sustainable.

2) Feedback. All members of staff need to feel valued. Create formal and informal methods for feedback to and from staff. This is an excellent 'carrot' tool; employees feel engaged, encouraged and included in their own personal development. A formal process of staff dialogue ensures that each member of the team has the opportunity to discuss themselves, their performance and their development.

These regular one to one dialogues should include personal targets, peer feedback, team working, training and personal development. Use a scoring method to measure progress. Ongoing informal communication and feedback is critical so that staff do not feel that they're only important once a year. Encourage feedback through suggestion schemes, cross-team meetings and engender an open environment.

Creative and personal goals will motivate and inspire improved performance

3) 360 degree communication. Many companies focus on one thing - the customer. This is essential but should not be viewed in isolation. Consider working closer and communicating with all stakeholders - partners, suppliers, investors and the local community. The 'buy-in' of the whole supply chain can bring to the fore issues that may be missed by looking in one single direction.

It may be worth placing staff within businesses in the supply chain. Vital information and critical issues can be passed along the supply chain improving internal and external relationships. This is a great 'carrots for everyone' tool. It's rare that beating your partners with a stick will encourage collaboration and mutual exchange of ideas.

4) Targets. Be creative and, where possible, personal with objectives and targets. People are more likely to support incentive schemes that are particular to them and their role. This is the archetypal 'stick', typically used in direct sales and can be effective if used sparingly. Creative and personal goals will motivate and inspire improved performance. The added responsibility encourages better understanding across the business. The benefit of fixed, known targets avoids confusion, if and when you need to get the stick out.

5) Multi-method. It's important to recognise that individuals have different preferences with regards to how they receive and process information. Finding the right combination of delivery methods for a message can be critical to its acceptance. Use personal announcement, written notification, graphics, video etc to ensure that all parties have access to a method they are comfortable with absorbing; think of the audience, not just the message.

Also, ensure that there is at least one method permanently available, e.g. notice boards, intranet or company newsletter. Full visibility of all staff targets across the business can be effective for team working and improve cross-functional cooperation - and ensure that if you need the stick, everyone knows you're hitting the right person with it!

6) Highlight star performers.
Display and communicate best performances across the whole company - not just sales. Visible recognition of over-achievement is a vital component of team working and recognition of all functions and people develops a democratic environment.

In essence, if a carrot and stick method is required, always use the carrot first and only use the stick sparingly. In this way communication will increase, team work improve and your reputation for ethical and fair leadership will spread.

For more information please visit www.the3rdi.co.uk