Communication Skills, Leadership

CEOs: How Much Is Poor Communication Costing You?

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Over-expansion, unprofitable business model, or market disruption — these are some of the most common reasons businesses fail. But are you aware of just how devastating lack of communication can be to your bottom line?

One report puts the total cost of poor communication at a whopping $37 billion for enterprises with 100,000 or more employees. That’s an average annual cost per company of $62.4 million. For smaller businesses, it’s reported that miscommunication can cost companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.

These are mind-boggling sums. But before you discount these reports as sensationalist nonsense, perhaps it’s worth asking yourself the question, how much is poor communication costing you?

How bad communication in business is costing millions

Issue 1: pointless meetings curtailing employee productivity

This example of poor communication is an easy one to quantify financially. If your employees use timers, you can easily see how much of their time is being spent in meetings. Are these meetings productive? Or are they repetitive and pointless?

I know from personal experience what it’s like to sit in a meeting that isn’t focused, properly led, or recorded. Unfortunately, I’m sure you do too. Take the time to gather feedback from your employees – how do they feel after a team discussion concludes? Ineffective meetings don’t just cost the business money; they also increase stress levels and negatively impact team collaboration and motivation. 

Issue 2: loss of credibility and trust with partners and customers

How well do your sales professionals and customer service teams communicate? Today, more than ever, the customer experience is critical to profitability. According to the NewVoiceMedia’s 2018 “Serial Switchers” report, “Brands are failing to create the positive, emotional experiences that drive customer loyalty.”

What customers want is to know they’ve been heard and understood. That genuine, human connection that is achieved through effective communication is craved by today’s customers. In fact, 63% of respondents said that a positive emotional connection with a customer service agent would make them more likely to do business with that company again. If there’s no evidence of this in your customer-facing teams, you’re likely losing money hand over fist.

Issue 3: lack of leadership, direction and focus leads to high employee turnover

Take a long, hard look at your leadership team – including yourself in the mirror. How does your communication (or lack thereof) impact the rest of the business? Does it inspire and motivate staff? Or are your business leaders siloed? Is there an “us vs. them” attitude and a lack of trust between operational departments of the business and the executive suite? Would you know about it if there were?

There’s more to good communication than delivering quarterly speeches, boardroom updates and delegation. Leaders can quickly find themselves guilty of poor communication if they don’t listen to their teams. They need to be able to understand their employees’ concerns, and inspire them to forge ahead to achieve mutual goals. A business without direction and purpose is easily lost.

5 tips for tackling poor communication

1. Listen

The basis of great communication is the ability to listen actively. Active listening isn’t about waiting for your turn to speak. It’s about really hearing and understanding what the other person is communicating, even if they’re not actually saying the words. For customer-facing roles as well as team leaders, this skill is invaluable. 

2. Consider your channel

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. This extends to the channel through which you’re communicating. Whether it’s a formal email, informal message, one-to-many presentation, one-on-one discussion, phone call, letter, video – or any other medium we have at our disposal today – make sure you align what you’re communicating with the vehicle through which it’s received. 

3. Be transparent 

In today’s digital world, people are less tolerant and more demanding. They want to speak with people, not robots. Whether it’s with customers or team members, it’s important to be transparent and to speak like a person, not a corporate entity. That doesn’t mean formality should be dispensed with. It simply means, be authentic. People value honesty over spin or fluff. It generates trust and loyalty.   

4. Polish your presentation skills

There’s no excuse for not having time to improve your presentation skills. As Les Posen says, “If your presentation is mission-critical, there is no excuse for dumping a Word document onto a slide… After all, that movie you paid $15 to see for 90 minutes may have taken two years to make.” A weak presentation delivered to clients or potential customers could be a real financial headache. But a poor presentation to internal stakeholders and team members can be just as damaging.

5. Invest in your people 

Remember that wonderful Henry Ford quote: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” Despite what everybody’s resume might suggest, effective communication skills are relatively hard to come by. But they can be taught. So invest in your people and help them to improve their communication skills. Ultimately, it will pay dividends.  

Since our training with over 500 ANZ employees across Australia, Michael Ziccone, Capability & Performance Manager says there has been a “noticeable uplift in our sales performance, resilience and morale”.

If you’re worried that poor communication could be losing your business money, have a look at our affordable communication course online. Amanda Rozario, a recent participant and specialist in the banking sector says our training “Taught me life skills I can use beyond my work. It is easy to remember, structured & very methodical. I will make sure I embed it in my work-life DNA”. Because it’s delivered entirely online, this is a great flexible option for rolling out training in your organisation.


The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.

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