Any time two or more people work in tandem, they create a human system. And that system will be only as effective as the patterns of communication that support it. For communication is the means by which diverse talents can be directed toward a shared goal, the way a collection of individual I’s can be transformed into a cohesive and capable we.
In a very real sense, communication is what makes coherent, collective action possible.
But while communication allows us to express ourselves and gather information, it also builds ties of association and relationship. It draws individuals and groups together into a shared community of thought and discussion, if only for the duration of a conversation.
Communication can be understood, then, as the process of making things common. Linguistically related to “common,” “communion,” and “community,” communication can be viewed as the means by which we make our internal thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions available to those around us for external discussion and action. It is the way we share of ourselves and have access to the experience of others.
This community-building function is of great importance in the workplace. For only to the degree that leaders are willing to enter into “communion” with their employees will they be able to establish effective patterns of association. If they hold themselves above or apart from employees, communication will inevitably falter, for the very foundation on which it rests will be undermined and unsound.
Effective communication, then, depends as much on what leaders feel or don’t feel about their employees, as it does on what they say or don’t say. It depends as much on the values, beliefs, and attitudes they hold as the structures, systems, and approaches they build.
Routine interaction may involve countless utilitarian exchanges. But at the end of the day, communication is a quintessentially human endeavor that involves much more than the surface-level transmission of facts and information.
No matter how large organizations might grow, then, and no matter how remote and removed various parties might seem from each other, communication must always be approached as a matter of one human being connecting with another. Anything less will fail to fully leverage the human potential available and inherent in the system as a whole.