It's Communication, Stupid!

Article excerpt

Most managers know the importance of communication. Yet most employees feel that lack of communication is at the core of their management's weakness. Managers are often astonished when officers complain about communication.

The success of a communication is measured not by how well the communicator speaks or writes but by how well the listener has heard. Managers need to establish whether their communications are heard, and if not, what the reason is they are not being heard. Here are the five most frequent and serious inhibitors of effective communication.

Mistrust

How do you feel when a person you do not trust says something harmless to you, like "Good morning!" The immediate response is likely to be "What does he want from me now?" Even when people genuinely try to mend bridges and reconstruct broken relationships, if they are mistrusted, everything they say or do will be misconstrued as having intent to harm or promote self-interest.

Mistrust between bosses and officers is a serious problem in many departments. For as long as that mistrust is allowed to perpetuate, communication will be ineffective and sometimes even negative. Increasing the quantity or quality of the communication will not improve it.

Mistrust filters and sometimes entirely blocks communication. The result is officers either are not hearing or hearing a message very different from the intended one. Even carefully crafted clinical statements of mission, values and codes of ethics will have little impact in an environment plagued by mistrust.

Mistrust manifests itself in different symptoms and is caused by different issues. Departments need to understand the reasons why their officers do not trust their management before designing trust-building strategies. These strategies will vary considerably from one department to another.

Too much fact, too little fiction!

Facts are heard. Emotions are felt. The flaws in communication are rarely about factual accuracy. The flaws usually relate to issues around feeling the communication, its sincerity, its authenticity, its integrity. To be felt, a communication needs to convey genuine emotion, not merely fact. Communication should inspire; facts alone rarely inspire.

It is difficult to inspire people via departmental memo or e-mail. Inspiring people and communicating feelings is easier face-to-face. Managers must have the courage to talk to their officers, not hide behind the remoteness of their computer screens. …