Eight Interconnected Causes of Breakdowns Is “we really need to improve communications around here” a common refrain in your workplace? It’s a very common frustration and complaint. ‘Increasing Communications’ was the highest voted topic by nearly 500 readers who completed our “reader sourcing” survey on key topic areas for the new book I am working on.

Given the importance readers placed on communications, I’ve invested quite a bit of time in the past months reading the many thoughtful comments, suggestions, and ideas on improving communications in a follow-up reader survey. Click here if you’d like still like to provide me with your feedback. You can also join my Book Advisory Panel with or without completing the survey.

I’ve been reviewing reader perspectives on increasing communications while looking much deeper at the growing reservoir of research on this broad topic. Like a doctor hearing a complaint of a headache, communication problems are often signs of deeper issues. There’s rarely a quick and easy solution.

Reader feedback and my research have led me to diagnose eight common causes of communication breakdowns. These intertwine with entangled cause and effect relationships unique to each situation:

  1. Trust Matters: It Will Make or Break Your Leadership — What’s the trust account balance of your personal, team, or organizational relationships? If you’re overdrawn, you’ll have a tough time communicating with each other.
  2. Reduce the Moose: Cultivate Courageous Conversations to Put Key Issues on the Table — Moose-on-the-table (or elephants-in-the-room) are topics that people avoid discussing. They’re often politically or emotionally charged.
  3. Truth to Empower: Be Open and Direct to Connect and Respect — Bosses are often told what everyone thinks they want to hear. Silence kills. Lack of honesty and candor cultivates a culture of cowardly communications.
  4. LOL (Leading Out Loud): You Gotta Walk and Role — Everyone sees the message loud and clear. The clearest communication is behavior. Leaders must model what they mean.
  5. True to You: Keep It Real with Authentic Leadership — Who you are overpowers what you say. Your values are showing. Do people think you’re me-deep in hypocrisy and egotism? How do you know?
  6. Out of the Loop: Faulty Feedback Impairs Everyone’s Learning and Development — Their perceptions of what you’re saying — and doing — are your reality. Feedback and genuine twoway communications are collaborative conversations.
  7. Listen Up: What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate — They won’t listen to you if you’re not hearing them. Conflict, turf wars, and destructive gossip are symptoms of people talking at and not with each other.
  8. Skilling It: Tools and Techniques to Boost Communication Effectiveness — Making emotional connections, influencing strategies, persuasion through logic on fire, emotional intelligence, taming The E-Mail Beast, stopping the meeting madness, harnessing feedback, and tapping into the yield of dreams. Building these skills significantly elevates communications.

These eight points can be both symptoms and causes of communication breakdowns in various combinations. How are you, your team, or your organization doing?

You might rank order these from the biggest to smallest problems. Which is the most critical area that might unlock your door to stronger communications?