We all know that real communication is more than just talking with someone to get a message across. It’s about a two-way flow, an interaction, understanding or at least appreciating what has been said. Communication covers so many areas, the spoken word, the written word and the myriad of social media ‘words’.
But there are three undeniable truths that continue to exist, regardless of the medium.
1. Thinking Doesn’t Communicate Anything
The human species has come a long way to where it is today but we still haven’t mastered thought transfer. Having a great idea or a plan to make something happen is all well and good but it has to be communicated to give it a chance of happening. People may be wary of opening up if their ideas don’t fit with the norm but a manager or leader is responsible for getting the best out of their people for the good of the business. That means ensuring everyone contributes.
The same applies to leaders. It’s no use thinking about some great future plan and then complaining that others aren’t implementing it. It’s down to you to tell them about it first.
2. Transmission Doesn’t Guarantee Understanding
Many individuals in senior positions fall into the trap of assuming just because they have espoused something during a speech, presentation or at a meeting that everything will swing into action.
Here’s a home truth for some senior leaders – people don’t always hang on to each and every word you utter.
Harsh, but true. Checking that others have understood what has been said is as much a requirement for CEOs and senior leaders as it is for everyone else. And checking that any inferred meanings have been picked up on is equally important. Not everyone will read between the lines the way you expect them to.
3. Discussion isn’t Disagreement, it’s Engagement
Far too many leaders and managers mistake clarification questions and discussion over what has been said as being disagreement. Worse still, they see it as a questioning of their authority. But ask yourself this. Wouldn’t you rather people had a full appreciation of what you are communicating so that they can move forward and deliver with confidence rather than assuming they know what you meant only to ‘surprise’ you later with something unexpected?
Questioning and discussing, and continuing to do so as time moves on are signs of a healthy and professional mature working environment. It doesn’t compromise a leader’s authority in any way. In fact, it solidifies it in an age when employees expect to be involved.
The different ‘generations’ may have different expectations around communication but much of this is bound up with pervading organisational cultures and technology. Despite these ever evolving environmental aspects communication still has to be two-way, has to include discussion to enable understanding and has to make its way from inside someone’s head to start things off.
© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2015.