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Miscommunication costly

One of the often overlooked critical success factors in a business is good communication. Management guru Peter Drucker noted, “Management is about human beings. Every enterprise is composed of people with different skills and knowledge doing many kinds of different work. It must be built on communication and on individual responsibility.” Given the growing complexity of work environments, it is more important than ever to consider how well people communicate within the organization. Think about the real cost of miscommunication in business. Poor communication can lead to lost sales and customers, countless hours wasted redoing projects, lawsuits, and even injury or death in the workplace. However, clear communication can inform, inspire, and create alignment within your company. Good communication does not just happen by chance. Instead, it’s a result of intentional and purposeful efforts by effective leaders.

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Stuart Kellogg, president and general manager of WAPT in Jackson, emphasizes the importance of communication in his organization. Kellogg has been at WAPT since 1991, when he moved to Jackson at age 36. A native of New York, his early years prepared him for the often transient life of the television business. He shared, “I attended six different schools by the time I was in the sixth grade.” His family settled in Long Island where he completed high school, and he went on to get a degree in broadcast journalism from Syracuse. In college, he actually began his television career by being an on-air weatherman for a local station. After college, he moved to Mobile, Ala., to work for a TV station there and he ended up meeting his wife Beth. While he started on the air, he decided to pursue a career in television management and ended up being the news director at the age of 26. Before coming to Jackson, he served in management roles with stations in Oklahoma City, Dallas, and New Orleans. In addition, he lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he worked for a nationally known television station consulting company. Kellogg found his home here in Mississippi where he has spent the last 20 years at the helm of WAPT. The station has changed owners a few times and is owned today by Heart Corporation, one of the largest media companies in the country.

We discussed the importance of communication in business, and he pointed out, “It is not good enough to be understood, you want to make sure you are not misunderstood.” Kellogg emphasizes this idea to his team of 75 employees on a frequent basis. He shared with me some of the practical ways he tries to encourage good communication. He has a weekly meeting with his department heads as well as some of the other leaders in the organization. They circulate their department updates to each other pre-meeting to avoid taking up all of the meeting time just giving updates. In the meeting, they review “discrepancy reports,” which essentially are debriefs on any problems or issues. They also review upcoming events and priorities. Besides his weekly management meeting, he also has an open door policy to encourage communication, and he often sits in on department meetings to listen, learn, and keep his finger on the pulse of the company. What I noted was a real focus on making sure that his team members were communicating well and being transparent with one another about issues. He keenly understands that as a leader it’s important to be clear and concise in your communication. Kellogg knows that, “It’s not what you say that matters, but it’s what people hear.”

In sum, our words and how we present them matters. In our organizations, we need to make sure that we facilitate and encourage good communication. It can be a fatal mistake to simply assume that we are being understood. In addition to his role at WAPT, Kellogg is an active leader in our community and is involved in leadership positions in numerous organizations. I have heard him speak at civic organizations and he is clearly a gifted communicator; however, I am most impressed by his intentionality about his own communication and that of his team members. We all have the opportunity to make sure that we are communicating to the best of our ability and constantly seeking to reduce problems caused by poor communication in our organizations.


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About Martin Willoughby

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