Steps from the U.S. Nuclear Submarine Force to Improve Your Communications

In the hundreds of turnarounds we’ve been a part of, the #1 Weakness in companies’ SWOTs and employee surveys is consistently Communication. This is likely not a surprise, as you have experienced poor or miscommunication at least once in your career. While efforts can tremendously improve Communication, we recommend that Communication is never removed from the Top 3 of your SWOT to ensure everyone at your organization stays aligned to continuous improvement and that your team knows it remains essential to communicate thoroughly and transparently for them. 

Let’s explore the communication strategies of the U.S. nuclear submarine force to explore the depths of Communication in the modern workplace. From understanding why leadership should prioritize it to tackling the challenges of poor Communication, this piece delves into the essential strategies and insights necessary for fostering a culture of effective Communication.

Why Leadership Should Prioritize Communication

Effective Communication is the essence of elite leadership in today’s disruptive world. Here are three reasons why leadership should prioritize Communication:

1. Building Trust Amidst Turbulent Waters: Trust is essential for effective Communication, and transparency breeds trust. Likewise, the crew of a nuclear submarine relies on trust to navigate treacherous waters, and employees look to leadership for transparent Communication that fosters trust and loyalty.

2. Aligning Objectives for Smooth Sailing: Clear Communication aligns organizational objectives, ensuring that every team member understands their role and contributes effectively towards shared goals.

3. Navigating through Foggy Conditions: Effective Communication serves as the compass guiding decision-making in ambiguous situations. By fostering open dialogue and disseminating timely information, leaders empower teams to navigate ambiguity confidently.

Challenges in the Communication Currents

Statistics reveal the magnitude of communication challenges in the workplace:

  • 86% of employees cite a lack of Communication as a significant cause of workplace failures.
  • Miscommunication costs businesses an average of $62.4 million annually in lost productivity in the U.S. and U.K. alone.

Here are three obstacles that hinder Communication:

1. Stormy Seas of Misinterpretation: Ambiguity leads to confusion and misunderstandings among team members. Without clear communication channels, vital information gets lost in translation, resulting in errors and inefficiencies.

2. Silent Depths of Silos and Fragmentation: Siloed communication channels create barriers within organizations, hindering collaboration and innovation. Departments become isolated islands, disconnected from the broader mission and vision of the organization.

3. Navigational Hazards of Low Morale and Turnover: Poor Communication erodes morale, leaving employees uncertain of clear direction and feedback from leadership. Disengagement sets in, leading to high turnover rates and decreased productivity.

Charting a Course for Multi-generational Crews

Bridging the communication gap between generations is essential for smooth sailing in today’s diverse workforce. Here are three strategies inspired by the U.S. nuclear submarine force that we teach in our Lead With Purpose consultancy programs and provide on our platform:

1. Harnessing Technology: The Digital Compass: Millennials and Gen Z crew members prefer digital channels like Microsoft Teams for real-time collaboration. At the same time, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers appreciate face-to-face interactions and phone calls. By embracing a blend of digital and traditional communication channels, organizations can cater to the preferences of all generations. We’ve built into our Lead With Purpose communications systems and routines this hybrid approach of targeted, intentional meetings and the One-Page Purpose Plan that communicates visually at speed.

2. Cross-generational Mentorship: Navigating by the Stars: Pairing crew members from different generations fosters mutual understanding and knowledge-sharing. Cross-generational mentorship programs empower employees to navigate communication challenges confidently, just as seasoned sailors pass down navigational wisdom to the next generation. In Phase 2 of our Lead With Purpose program, Empower, we teach organizations how to foster mentors and coaches to create a culture of continuous learning.

3. Training and Development: Charting the Course Together: Offer communication workshops and training programs tailored to the needs of different age groups. Focus on essential skills such as active listening, empathy, and adaptability, ensuring that every crew member is equipped to navigate the seas of Communication. One of the most crucial aspects of our programs is teaching leaders how to listen and ask questions while understanding their team members’ points of view to develop their leadership skills.

Unveiling the Communication Secrets of the U.S. Nuclear Submarine Force

The U.S. nuclear submarine force has a history of excellence in Communication, offering valuable insights for organizations navigating the complexities of the modern workplace. Here are some of their communication strategies:

1. Establishing Clear Channels of Communication: Clear communication protocols ensure that information flows seamlessly across all levels of the organization, just as sonar pings penetrate through the depths. Regular Communication ensures that everyone is on the same page.

2. Encouraging Open Dialogue: Encouraging open dialogue fosters a culture of transparency, enabling teams to collaborate effectively and address problems proactively. One of our favorite books to recommend on this topic for your Daily Stand-Up reading is Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, and Ron McMillan. You can find it in the LWP Bookshelf.

3. Emphasizing Accountability: Effective Communication requires accountability – I have to rely on you, and you have to depend on me. Why? Because in the nuclear submarine force, we all come to the surface, or no one does. By emphasizing accountability, the U.S. nuclear submarine force creates trust and collaboration, ensuring that every crew member is committed to the mission… and each other.

Cruising Toward Effective Communication

As we navigate through the ever-changing tides of this new, disruptive world, remember that the U.S. nuclear submarine force’s communication framework thrives in these environments. The lessons serve as a guiding light, illuminating the path toward communication excellence. Organizations can chart a course toward success amidst the turbulent seas of competition and change by prioritizing Communication, understanding the challenges, and embracing strategies for multi-generational teams.