Author Archives: Management Associates

Community, Communion, and the Human Side of Communication

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.

Effort, Habit and the Timetable of Transformation

Instant gratification is widely prized today, not the least in business circles. The number of leadership books promising tips, tricks, and secrets to achieve quick and painless change — of ones’ employees, ones’ organization, ones’ self — testifies to the number of leaders seeking the silver bullet solution. Of course many leaders realize that things… Continue Reading

Leadership Intentions for a New Year

New Years’ resolutions have a bad reputation. Gym memberships are bought and ignored; book clubs are joined and eventually dropped.  So common have such patterns become that it sometimes seems like the more earnest the commitment, the more likely its failure. But while our intentions might often outstrip our dedication, the motivation behind New Year’s… Continue Reading

Fear and the Exceptional Leader

Leaders’ assumptions, values, beliefs, and mental models are critically important in shaping their day-to-day choices, choices that mold workplace culture and impact organizational functioning. But an equally important driver of behavior – and one that is far more frequently overlooked and avoided — is fear. Fear is a delicate issue in the workplace, particularly among… Continue Reading

Three Below-the-Line Obstacles to Involvement

Involving employees in workplace decisions has been associated with a wide range of operational benefits. And yet true involvement remains relatively rare in the workplace. Why? Many factors play a role, of course. But the unintended consequences of hierarchical systems of authority pose a particularly stubborn set of challenges. Common to virtually all modern organizations,… Continue Reading

Employee Involvement and Participation: Do We Really Want It?

The benefits of involving employees in decisions that affect them are clear. Victor Vroom, one of the seminal pioneers in areas of motivation and decision-making, once wrote: “Participative decision processes…can provide a training ground in which people can think through the implications of decisions. Participation can also perform a team building function, building positive relationships… Continue Reading

The Most Profound Form of Recognition

We have previously suggested that recognition is, at the most fundamental level, an acknowledgement of the worth of a human being. But how can we tell if someone really values us? What demonstrates their regard? What are its tangible, outward manifestations? When asked this question in workshops, participants often say things like “they seek me out,”… Continue Reading

Involvement: Path to Increased Ownership

Countless leaders seek to strengthen ownership and personal responsibility for organizational initiatives in their workplace. What many don’t realize is that involving employees  in decision-making processes can be a powerful way to build such support. We once worked with a fire chief who had been budgeted money to buy a new truck. He was looking… Continue Reading

Unity, Discord, and the Reality of Human Nature

If it is in fact true that organizational performance rises with growing levels of agreement, collaboration, reciprocity and shared vision, why do leaders accept significant (and largely avoidable) costs of disunity?  Much has to do with widespread below-the-line beliefs that disunity is just the way things are. “It’s human nature,” clients have again and again… Continue Reading

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