Category Archives: communication

Communication: What Do You Believe?

“In no other area have intelligent men and women worked harder or with greater dedication than…on improving communications in our organizations. Yet communications has proved as elusive as the Unicorn.”

These words are as true today as they were in 1973 when Peter Drucker first wrote them. Communication is an area in which many organizations struggle and even more fall short. But is this difficulty endemic to communication itself? Or is it merely indicative of the way leaders approach it?

We have suggested that the heart of communication is the act of making things common. While giving due consideration to technical considerations of system, structure, and method, leaders must remember that all communication ultimately concerns the act of building understanding between human beings.

With this in mind, it becomes clear that the quality of interactions depend in large part on who we are and how we view others:

  • Do I believe that employees are getting all the information they need? How do they see it? Why don’t I share more information with them?
  • Do I believe that employees are truly concerned about helping this organization? If yes, am I giving them all the information they need?
  • Do I want employees to demonstrate independent thinking and judgment? And if so, am I giving them information they need to do it well?
  • Do I want employees to understand decisions or just obey them? Do I resent being asked “why”? Do I think that when people ask questions about a decision, they are questioning the decision?
  • To what degree do I believe that other people’s dignity is important to the quality of their work? How does my communication with them demonstrate what I believe? How do they see it?
  • Do I care what other people think? Do I think they have anything of value to contribute? Does my behavior demonstrate that?
  • To what degree do I believe that creating a communication-rich environment is a high priority?

The answers we give to questions like these – not the ones we formulate for public consumption, but the ones arrive at our own private deliberation and reflection – will do much to determine how effectively we are able to communicate with those on whom the achievement of our aims and goals  depends.

Below-the-Line Inhibitors of Productive Communication

Many factors can inhibit the establishment of conditions that tend to characterize superior-functioning organizations .Leaders’ own below-the-line beliefs, values, and assumptions, however, can be particularly problematic. Consider, for example, the following: Unexamined assumptions that one is already communicating sufficiently with employees A failure to establish formal mechanisms to assess the quality of organizational communication systems… Continue Reading

Listening: Mastery of Our Own Self-Centered Tendencies

All of us listen. From morning to night we listen to spouses, kids, clients, friends, coworkers, and employees. But the very fact that we do it so much fools us into believing that we do it well. The reality, of course, is that our superficial and often scattered attention is no more listening than communication… Continue Reading

Conversation: Shared Frames of Reference

As organizations grow, they become increasingly reliant on one-directional forms of communication such as memos, newsletters, and speeches. These can be quite efficient in some respects, but the complexity, nuance, and detail they are able to convey is inherently limited. To clarify finer levels of understanding, then, conversation is needed. The ask-listen-discuss cycle of two-way… Continue Reading

Content Communication, Relational Communication (2 of 2)

Content communication — the whats, whens and whys of day-to-day interaction — is extremely seductive in its tangibility. But leaders cannot afford to underestimate the impact of relational communication in the functioning of any human system.    To understand the enormity of this influence, put yourself in the shoes of a woman working in an… Continue Reading

Content Communication, Relational Communication (1 of 2)

Communication can be divided into two broad categories: content and relational. Content is the what of any message. It is the facts and figures, the ideas and opinions that we transmit through e-mails, conversations, memos, or notes on the bulletin board. It is anything that can be expressed in words. Relational communication pertains to the… Continue Reading

Into the Void: Employee Efforts and the Leadership Feedback

Many organizations struggle to convey the rationale of organizational decisions as reliably as the operational details involved. A similar challenge concerns the feedback employees receive on the results of their efforts. Employees often say that they are given very little information about the impact of the day-in, day-out work they complete. They may be told… Continue Reading

Communication and the Challenge of Conveying Rationale

Of the many content areas workplace communication can be divided into, few are more prone to difficulties than organizational choices and decisions.  The who’s, what’s, and where’s of decisions are typically conveyed with acceptable clarity and consistency. The rationale behind them, however, is not.  In practical terms, this means that while employees typically receive the… Continue Reading

Types of Workplace Communication and Why they Matter

When leaders assess organizational communication, they often use generalizations such as “good communication” or “communication problems.” Such expressions seem natural, but in fact obscure a great variety of context and circumstance. To better understand the variety of workplace communication, it can be helpful to think in terms of topic-specific categories of communication. One organization, for… Continue Reading

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… Continue Reading

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