upon a time, I worked with banking executives. They were all very good, smart people with a wide range of talents, skills and personalities. However, when faced with a problem that involved people this sentence always seemed to come up.
“It’s a lack of communication”
It was kind of a throwaway remark that, once said, was somehow lost among the myriad of other important issues that required attention. And yet, quite often, the root of a problem in the organization could be found under the heading of Communication,
Actually, the phrase, lack of communication is a bit faulty because it suggests that communication in organizations doesn’t exist. It does exist. It just has a nasty habit of being dysfunctional
So what, in the simplest terms is effective communication? Well, to me, communication is good when you tell me something, and I understand it in the way you meant it.
It doesn’t sound complicated but we all know that, in reality, it is easier to say than to do.
So what gets in the way?
Well, a lot of things really, but here are three that come to mind for me.
- Hearing but not listening
Listening is an art that requires time and concentration. Generally, human beings aren’t that good at it and that’s why so many of our messages get lost along the way.
Listening requires suspending our own egos, opinions and thoughts to make room for someone else’s. For example if I am nodding and looking at you while you are speaking but thinking about what I’m going to say next, I’m not really listening. And, if you are doing the same thing, the words serve only to take us both further away from the real message. In essence, it becomes a game of verbal badminton rather than a meaningful exchange of information.
Good listening involves asking questions for clarification and repeating what we hear so that the message we get matches the message being delivered. And, it requires us to give some time over to learning about the perspectives and views of others if we are actually going to get something of value out of it.
Oscar Wilde said “Assume and you make an Ass out of U and Me”. There is an element of truth in this. At the very least, making assumptions about others when you have an important message to convey can certainly get in the way of their getting the meaning you intend.
For instance if you assume people know things, or have experience with things, they do not, and the clarity of your message relies on such knowledge or experience, chances are, they won’t understand what you’re getting at.
When we are busy this can easily happen but taking the time to ask some fundamental questions that will establish where people are, in relation to the message you want to send, will save time in the long run and be less frustrating for all concerned.
- The Dreaded “Business Speak”
This has got to be one of the biggest reasons that understanding is lost between people in organizations. For some reason, when we enter the front door of business life, our ability to speak plainly walks out the back door.
Speaking and writing plainly does not suggest lack of intelligence or knowledge on the part of the communicator, quite the opposite. Someone who is able to get a clear message across with minimal head scratching on the part of the recipient is very clever indeed.
So the next time you are tempted to say something like,
“Going forward, we will dialogue about the deliverables, ensure that we have buy-in from all stakeholders and then circle back to close the loop on the project”,
you might want to reconsider and say something like,
From now on, let’s talk more about what we have to produce; make sure all those affected by what we are doing, agree; and then meet again to talk about how we might finish the project.
Just for fun, here’s a link to MBA Jargon Watch 2.0 – Where business jargon goes to die.
Something to think about:
How well does your organization communicate to its employees? its clients?
What is working? What needs to be fixed? How would you do it differently?