“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.