information instead of communicationDoes your organization need to improve communications? Would you like to get more e-mails?

Almost every hand goes up when I ask that first question in a workshop. Rarely do any hands go up when I ask the second question. But what do most managers do when they hear people in their organization want more communication? They send more e-mails.

German sociologist, Hartmut Rosa, calculates that since pre-modern times, communications have increased by a factor of ten million times and information transmission by ten billion.

It’s not clear how Rosa delineates information and communication. There is a crucial difference between them. Many managers confuse the two.

We’re drowning in information while thirsting for communication.

As with management and leadership, we need both.

Information →   Communication
Speaks to the head →   Engages the heart
Monologue →   Dialog
Facts and Results →   Stories and Values
Mostly written Mostly verbal
Quantity →   Quality
Provides updates →   Builds communion

From their research with people in more than 100 companies, Harvard professor, Boris Groysberg, and communications consultant, Michael Slind’s declare that Leadership is a Conversation. “Traditional corporate communication must give way to a process that is more dynamic and more sophisticated. Most important, that process must be conversational (their emphasis).” Managers talk at people; leaders talk with people.

When you’re talking with a friend or family member, you’re engaged in a two-way discussion. You’re giving and getting perspectives, perceptions, and feelings. You’re projecting your emotions while reading and reacting to their emotions. Your conversation ebbs and flows.

E-mails or texts can be wonderfully efficient and extremely useful. They’re great information tools. Sometimes they enhance discussions and foster conversations. But often they hurt rather than help with reading emotions and making heart to heart connections. It’s very hard to sense intentions, empathize, or reach a mutual understanding to build trust, deepen learning, and strengthen bonds.

Overwhelmed and overloaded managers need to get much more strategic with information and communications. Rather than cramming more information into a slide deck or sending more e-mails, effective leaders cut through the information torrent to talk with people. Listening and learning is as important — perhaps even more so for engagement and trust-building — as telling and selling.

How’s your communication-information balance? Do you need to do less informing and more communicating?