Ironically, in today’s age of instantaneous communication and technologies that have made us a global village, communication breakdowns are the single biggest complaint we hear from our Clients. It’s a complex issue with both cause and effect tightly intertwined. In many cases, people don’t have the skills to address tough issues with each other. And so they do it poorly and raise defensiveness in the other person, or stir up conflict that can get personal and quite vicious. Many times people are afraid to speak up because they have seen others who have been ostracized, nudged off the promotion track, ignored, or punished with the least desirable assignments.
Adding to the noise of communication issues is technology overload. Lots of people confuse “communicating” with “dumping information” through e-mail or “death by PowerPoint.” This often reduces meaningful two-way communication. Everyone is scrambling to frantically clear inboxes or grind through yet another meeting. There is no time for thoughtful and difficult conversations. Quantity is confused with quality.
As if that weren’t enough, when the organization’s structure is badly designed and the processes or methods for moving information, work flow, products, or customers through it are flawed, all kinds of errors, rework, waste, and frustration build up. People will often look at the resultant mess and say, “We need more communication around here.” In fact, they probably need less, but they need it to be better! In these cases, communication problems are a symptom of underlying problems with processes, systems, or organizational structure.
The key question is: What are you doing to help remedy things? You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no middle ground. You can ride the Bitter Bus and complain about “them” or “nobody ever tells me anything.” Or you can build your communication skills, go get the information you need, connect with others, and identify the moose-on-the-table. You can act like a leader.
Tomorrow we publish my February blogs in the March issue of The Leader Letter. It features a recent coaching and leadership skill development webinar, articles on the impact of expectations on performance, influencing your boss, the powerful combination of technical expertise and relationship building, and how to define customer service and see it through their eyes.
These are all communication issues. And the quality of our communications ultimately determines the quality of our lives and workplaces.