We all know that communication is one of the most challenging aspects of any project or business. It is cited in hundreds if not thousands of business reviews as being “something to sort”, but it is far more than something to sort. Communication depends on personalities, complexity of activity, skills and capabilities of individuals, company culture, leadership styles and stress/pressure.
Think of how easily communication can go wrong….just the wrong tone of voice can destroy a relationship, create tension and distract from our core purposes and tasks. We all have high expectations of communication capability whether it’s from a service provider like a hotel or restaurant or from product information or within project management and business activity. The reality is that it is impossible to meet these expectations all the time with everybody but it doesn’t mean we should stop trying!
There are some great examples of communication from and within businesses but there isn’t a single organisation who have it sorted! It varies according to the culture and structure of the business and to a certain extent on the output/sector of the organisation. Think of the Armed Forces – phenomenal teamwork, highly structured hierarchy, clear lines of communication and command but no room for individuality. Yesterday I was speaking to a potential new colleague who is currently a junglie and about to go through resettlement as he leaves the Navy. In our conversation we recognised the challenge for him moving from this structure and this level of resourcing into the risk and flexibility of the events industry and small business.
So, given that we are working in different cultures and contexts, what makes for great communication?
From my experience, it’s a simple appreciation of who I am communicating with and a bit of emotional intelligence as to how the message might be received. The challenge is that there isn’t always the time to consciously think about this before the communication bit happens…so we need to develop constructs in our brains that enable us to automate this thinking; we need to develop that emotional intelligence that enables us to read the situation and the people and adapt our communication accordingly in terms of language, format and route.
There isn’t a quick fix and this intelligence takes time and experience to develop which makes creating great communication in an organisation of any size even more challenging because we (as leaders) need to encourage and support the development of that intelligence. This is made even more difficult when we layer on our own personal context and stress. It is hard to leave one’s own challenges behind and I would argue that we should actually use these personal experiences as part of our leadership, recognising that we are merely human after all!
Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky