Complicated Communication

Winnipeg Free Press, October 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

Complicated Communication


If you asked successful leaders what made them successful, I'm certain you'll find the answer to be good communication skills.

Let's face it, leaders spend most of their day engaging in communication of some kind or other. That's because leaders need to get things done through people. They use their communication tools to motivate and direct their teams; they set a vision and goals and use communication to attract followers. They also use communication to influence others, both within their corporations and external in the community.

Yet, good communication isn't just limited to those individuals holding senior leadership roles. Developing staff into becoming good communicators is a goal that all leaders should think about. It is highly valuable to have leadership and communication skills throughout your organization. Good communication skills and good communication overall helps to ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction and motivated to achieve company goals.

At the same time, people often think that because they can talk, they are communicating and that is definitely not the case. Just think about a situation where a message was communicated but completely misunderstood. Think about that poor employee who completed a task only to find out that they spent all their time on the wrong objective. What does that do to their morale?

Yet, communication is complicated. It can involve poor timing, little or no understanding of the audience or listener, illogical word or thought sequence, inappropriate tone of voice, cultural misinterpretations, the wrong medium or completely the wrong purpose. In addition, communication is complicated by the respect and image of the speaker, the size of the audience, the noise level and/or the medium in which the message has been sent.

At this point, I am sure you can agree that talking doesn't mean you are communicating. Communication is a learned skill and one that leaders at all levels of an organization require to be successful. Leaders need to engage in controlled, planned and directed communication that allows for a purposeful transfer of information and meaning to the listeners. This can be for a single person, a group of employees, a volunteer organization and/or your community. In fact, the higher you climb that corporate or organizational career ladder, the more important communication skills will become.

The question for some is where does a person go to learn and build their skills in communication and improve their leadership skills at the same time? Yes, you can take a short course or two, but in my experience, there are too many binders of notes sitting on your shelf already; partly because you've had no one to practise with and/or to coach and guide you.

In my view, the best approach for skill development is to engage in slower, learn by doing, practical and hands-on programs.

This is where the Toastmaster's International organization comes in. With humble beginnings as far back as 1924, Toastmasters has now grown to become a world leader in communication and leadership development with 13,500 clubs in 116 countries. Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario alone have approximately 1,400 members in 106 active clubs with participants ranging from 18 to 80 years of age.

Each weekly Toastmasters meeting is essentially a "learn by doing" workshop. Participant members learn communication skills by working in a series of learning manuals consisting of approximately 10 self-paced speaking assignments.

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