The problem with communication...


Communication can be tricky. Our message can be misconstrued or worse, missed altogether. Here are some ways to avoid this.

'The problem with communication...... is the illusion that it has been accomplished.'   George Bernard Shaw
I saw an amusing cartoon the other day, which made me think, writes Hilary Jeanes of PurpleLine Consulting.
It pictured a man in an office with a bookshelf behind him.  It was filled with books with titles like zero-based budgeting, business process re-engineering, management by objectives, rightsizing, benchmarking for business etc etc. He is reading a book and thinking ‘Hmm... this new management fad is crazy enough that it might just work. The title of the book?   ‘Just do your flippin’ job!’
So what makes this amusing? Is it that doing your job is unusual? That people are so creative that they find all sorts of ways to avoid doing this? Or is it that there are so many management fads (and even worse, so much management jargon) that people are turned off by it? Probably a combination of all of these, and more.
One thing is certain, that clarity and simplicity in communication seem to pass business by! Maybe it’s because jargon sounds clever or people use it to feel superior, but the fact is that you are much more likely to be heard and understood if you are clear about what you want.
My daughter Zoë recounted an interesting experience to me recently. As the longest serving member of the team, she was interviewing with her boss for a new team member.  From a question asked by an applicant Zoë discovered that more money was being offered to the new recruit than she was earning.   Following the interviews she told the boss in her inimitable fashion that she was now looking for a new job! This prompted him to act and, pleased as punch, Zoë later told a friend working in a different team who then promptly asked for a payrise too. Zoë got told off for not keeping her payrise to herself. How was she to know that if no-one told her? And in her words ‘how does that fit with the company ethos of openness?’
So the moral of these stories is to think hard about how and what you communicate. 
  • Think about the language you use – especially when you are explaining something new. Give examples to help people understand what it means for them.
  • Be clear about your expectations of your employees – they are much more likely to meet them if they know what you want. 
  • Only choose values which you believe in – and much more importantly – live by them. 
And last but not least, if you want to retain your good people, don’t offer more money to new recruits than to your existing employees!
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Hilary Jeanes (trading as PurpleLine Consulting Limited)