Plain language

John Rowe has two basic
rules when it comes to communication: Keep it direct, and
keep it simple.

The president, managing director and co-owner of $24 million Cargo Services Inc., a
global freight transportation
provider, says effective business communicators put themselves in front of their employees — be it in-person or via
electronic means — and offer
straightforward messages that
don’t get bogged down with
excess language.

And they don’t stop delivering
the message until they are certain everyone understands it.

Rowe says that a communication strategy built around
understanding and plain language helps build trust between
employees and management as
workers begin to believe the
actions of the company’s leaders will follow their words.

“Our leadership style is
straightforward, and we are
quiet and get out of the way.
We let our folks know what is
expected of them; we get out of
the way and let them do the
work,” Rowe says.

Smart Business spoke with
Rowe about how effective communication leads to a sense of
trust in an organization.

Communicate directly. The way
we communicate is very fluid.
What I mean by that is we communicate through different levels. We have monthly department meetings where we communicate quite a bit of company
policy. But most of our communication is done directly via e-mail and face-to-face visits.

The No. 1 point is to be direct
and communicate what you
need to communicate as brief as
you can make it. You want to be
direct and to the point and don’t

The second thing is to ask
questions. Make sure you understand what we’re talking about,
if you have any concerns, and
make sure you listen.

We communicate in monthly
meetings. If we’re in a meeting
and I have something to communicate I try to communicate
it very briefly, then ask if everybody understands or has questions or concerns. Then I’ll listen. We do the same thing in
speaking with our associates on
issues dealing with customers.

We just want to make sure
they understand what the concern is, what our point is, then
we are always asking if there is
anything else they need to
understand. I try to really gain
an understanding that we see
eye to eye and that there are no
questions. That’s really important. If you go away and there
are still questions, other problems might arise.

You want employees to realize
that what you are saying is
important. Whatever you’re
communicating is important so
they know that you’re there to
communicate whatever issues
are out there and help solve any
problems that they might have.

We communicate to them
upfront that we’re not here to
do your job, but we’re here to help you do whatever you need
to do, especially if you have
issues and problems. We’re here
to help you work through those
without any repercussions.

If you have a culture of trust
built up with your associates,
where you know you can go
out and speak to them about an
issue, you know they’ll understand it, and you can trust that
they’ll give you an honest answer.

Build trust from the beginning. When we bring someone in for
an interview, one of the first
things is that we give them a
copy of our company vision and
we go through it. We don’t just
give them a copy and move on;
we spend some time on it.

We go down each point and
explain the reasons behind our
purpose and our company principles. We ask questions. ‘Do you
understand why we do this? Does
that make an impact with you?’

As we go through the interview, we still gain further information about their qualities and
how their personality would fit
in the organization.

We also have department
heads and directors interview,
so somebody that we’re interviewing for a position speaks to
a number of people within the
company. Then we make sure
we understand from our side
what they think of that individual and if they’d fit within our
culture. That’s one of the most
difficult things you do — where
we’ve hired and then realized
we made a mistake and then
had to correct it.

But if you get more people
involved in a hiring process and
speaking to a candidate, you will
have a better opportunity to find
out what that person is all about.