Richard Daniels Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2007
There is a difference between what you think you’re communicating and what other people think you’re communicating. Richard Daniels first read that message years ago, and it has stuck with him to this day. The president and CEO of McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital in Oxford, which posted 2006 revenue of $48 million, says that internal communication isn’t a simple matter of verbal pitch-and-catch between a business leader and his or her employees. Instead, it’s a sometimes-complicated process that takes a good deal of maintenance to keep working. Daniels says good communication takes many forms, both written and spoken. And if you want to truly engage your employees, keeping them informed and reinforcing your company’s vision and values, then, he says, communication is something you have to tackle every day. Smart Business spoke with Daniels about how to use communication to empower your work force.

Communicate in many different ways.

Communication is a hard thing to measure. You might think you’re doing a good job, but you don’t realize it until you get feedback.

The big issue is how to have some objectives and evaluation by others as to whether there is good communication. The methods we’ve used have been all sorts of things, everything from direct working with the managers, the managers working with the staff, attending meetings within the departments so you have the direct interaction with your front-line people.

Every employee gets something in writing, so there’s not a possibility of distributing it differently or a possibility that some may read it and some may not. We try to get things directly into people’s hands. So it’s all the traditional stuff, things on bulletin boards that we have throughout the facility. There really is no one way to communicate that is more or less successful than another way.

However, you need to communicate through different means because some people are visual people and some are not. Some people understand communication best verbally. Some understand better if they have a chance to read it and think on it. People have different levels of understanding of the organization or the issues in particular areas.

Particularly in health care, we have everything from on-the-job training to clerical or environmental services to nutrition services. Some might not have Ph.D.s but are people who are very well-educated and very knowledgeable in very specific areas. So people have different levels of capabilities in terms of understanding and appreciating the information.

Take an employee’s perspective. I don’t know who said it first, I read it a long time ago, but someone said, ‘When you are communicating, there is what you want to communicate and what you actually do communicate.’

It’s what the recipient of the communication heard, so there are many factors that go into how things are communicated and how things are understood. To expect that one way or method, even if it’s repetitive, will be successful, that might not necessarily be the case.

You can never be totally sure that people are hearing what you are saying. You try to get feedback by directly asking people or through asking the front-line managers, ‘How are the people in your area reacting to the information? Are you getting questions from people?’ But it’s still subjective and iffy at best.

Get your best players on the field. The biggest thing with communicating your vision would be to set the base, which would be the values that go with mission and vision of the organization.

That tends to happen when you get the core group that has been a part of the organization for 10, 20 and 30 years involved. They are kind of the base around which a lot of other people come and go over time. The longer-term people have kind of internalized in a general sense the direction of the organization, the philosophy.

A certain amount of that rubs off on the other people. That occurs, and the other part of that is, periodically, you try to reinforce that with more formal education or training programs or other ways to get the point across differently.

Recognize your employees. You try to recognize people on a personal basis, by saying, ‘thank you,’ face-to-face. One of the advantages of e-mail is that you can hit a whole bunch of people very quickly when there is a particular success.

One of the things we started doing several years ago is budget $50 for each employee in a department, so the department manager has money set aside for however they want to use it. They can buy a $10 gift card to give to a person as a measure of thanks for extra effort.

The point is to give the recognition. Even though it’s not a big deal in terms of dollars and cents, it’s a big deal to the recipient, no matter how large or small it is. It’s the process of the recognition, not necessarily the value of the reward itself.

Keep it real. You try to be straightforward with whatever is going on, so that there isn’t any hidden information or hidden agendas. People trust what you are doing, and you try to be fair and consistent and reasonable with how you go about change. Things are always bound to change, and there will always be new challenges you have to face, which means you need to have a philosophy about how you do it.

HOW TO REACH: McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital, www.mhmh.org or (513) 523-2111