Rodney Dangerfield and Jim Carrey at the premiere of 'Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas' at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles Ca. 11/8/00.Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect

They say that those closest to us are often the last to know things.  Nowhere is that more true than within our own companies and organizations.   Internal communications is often an afterthought.  Leaders tend to focus on communicating with those outside, forgetting their most important audience, their own staff and employees.  How can you engage customers, clients or donor if those inside don’t understand the organization’s values, products, services and structure?

In this piece which has appeared in Huffington Post, I share some lessons from a botched Cobb salad.  It took three tries for a hotel to give me the salad with no meat and extra cheese.   Clearly,  there was an internal communications breakdown between the kitchen and wait staffs.  My situation wasn’t the first or last time that happened.

Don’t get me wrong, engaging with external audiences is vitally important.  But that engagement has to first start inside your organization with the people who every day make your organization work.

Here are a few tips from the piece:

Buy-in From the Top

C-Suite leadership must be committed to communication.  They must be visible, accessible, and willing to engage in an ongoing conversation with their employees. Your leadership’s willingness and openness to communicate have a dramatic effect on morale and employee retention and attraction. And fostering the best talent is key to achieving organizational goals.

Use clear and simple language.

Don’t hide your message behind jargon and three syllable words when plain talk will do. Language that is confusing or overly complex leads to misunderstandings.

Don’t Forget Context 

As you are sharing information with employees, let them understand decisions and actions within the larger context.  Why was this decision made?  What were external market forces that led to this action?  What does this mean for the enterprise as a whole?  What does it mean to specific departments and teams?

Train, Train, Train

Don’t just tell people to communicate—show them how to do it. Offer talking points and other materials to support good communication.

Live What You Say

No matter what kind communication you undertake, if it isn’t matched by action, it is nothing more than an empty promise.  If you say you are going to listen to your employees, show them how you listened.  If they make a suggestion that you can’t implement, acknowledge that you heard and considered it, then share why you couldn’t move forward.

Does your organization value internal communications?  If you are doing it well, please share what works.