Today's Tactics Tuesday asks the question: Is the problem with internal communication the "C" word? Recently a friend and I were discussing Shakespeare's quote, "What's in a name?" and how that applied to internal communication. You know, that line in Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
The idea, of course, is that it doesn't matter what something is called. What matters is what it is. So no matter what we were to call a rose, at the end of the day it would still smell as sweet.
But what about internal communication? It's what it's called affecting what it is? Well after long debate, we came to the conclusion that, yes, what it's being called is affecting what it is, because one of the problems around effective internal communication, in today's organization, is that the "C" word, communication, is a word fraught with so many connotations.
So when we ask managers to be more effective internal communicators, what do they actually understand we're asking them to do? Now, in many manager's minds, communication is the one-way download of information. So they write or speak whatever it is that they're requiring employees to do. Employees are meant to passively receive that information and do exactly what is required of them.
Now, if communication is the transfer of meaning or understanding, then a one-way download of information is not going to achieve that transfer. I think that's one of the obstacles that we face in today's organizations.
So how do we get around that? How to we persuade or influence managers about their role in effective internal communication? Well, here's an idea for you. One of the things that I've found that works really well in this situation is to delete the "C" word from my vocabulary. So when persuading or influencing managers around their role in effective communication, I don't use the word "communication." Instead, I use the word "shift," because the word "shift" gives the notion or the idea of a movement from one communication state to another, so a shift from lack of awareness to understanding, a shift from confusion to clarity, a shift from inertia to performance, a shift from resistance to buy-in.
So that shift can be a shift in employees' knowledge, a shift in their behavior, or a shift in their performance. So using the word "shift" to denote that what is required is to shift employees from one communication state to another in order to achieve a desired outcome gives managers a different and clearer perspective on their role in that process. As a result, I've found they're far more open to seeking, first, to understand what communication state are employees currently in, in order for us to know where we need to shift them from to achieve the desired communication outcome. And, of course, seeking first to understand your target audience is one of the hallmarks of effective management communication.
So that's my tactic for this Tuesday. Delete the "C" word from your leadership communication lexicon and instead use the word "shift" in order to persuade or influence managers around their role in the communication process. What do you think? Do you think the word "communication" in effective internal communication is helping or hindering the effective practice of communication by today's managers?
Well, that's it for today. I hope to see you again soon. Until then, happy communicating.
Lorri Lennon is an award-winning advisor, trainer and author in leadership communication. She has 20 years’ experience managing communications for large global organisations.
Lorri conducts master classes to help participants maximise their communications ROI.
Mariska Mannes is an experienced communication consultant. She holds a Master of Management majoring in Communication, which allows her to bring a blend of qualification and practical experiences to her training programmes. Her expertise is in business and cross cultural communication and behaviour. For more information visit Mariska's LinkedIn profile.