Thursday, March 15, 2012

You're saying more than you think you are

There are enough nuances, and certainly enough war stories, that this blog could be entirely consumed with the topic of communication.  It's the critical thread that helps you get the job done, or it's the irritant that gets under your skin as it creates false starts, errors, and crummy work relationships.  Effective communication can be a slippery devil because it has so many moving parts.  But let's have a go at a few of the issues today.

The message behind the message
That raised eyebrow or huffy stalk out of your office is often not related directly to whatever you just said.  You spoke (or concealed) volumes beyond the two sentences you uttered.  Your body language telegraphed that you weren't in the mood to have the conversation, your desk in its position across a vast expanse of Oriental carpeting conveyed that you are an authority figure and therefore due respect, and your clothing revealed that you pull down a large enough salary that you can splurge on custom tailoring.

You might be working right now to keep yourself friendly in a detached "don't want to get too chummy" leader kind of way.  But you're also telegraphing what you really think by:

  • How much you tell, and to whom, and with what timing.
  • Who you invite to meetings, and where each of you choose to sit - every time.
  • Whether you are a master of the memo or the chat as your predominant method.
  • What items are included in meeting agendas.
  • How decisions are made and communicated.  
Personality vs. Process
As the person in charge you are responsible for work processes, and communication processes are included. Many leaders relegate communication to chance, or they become frustrated because it's not happening due to a team leader's introversion or other personality trait.  But just like production is a series of replicable steps with a predictable outcome, communication, when viewed as a process and managed as such, is a powerful tool in setting the tone in the workplace.

The extent to which you manage communication, the relationship glue - in your business and in your life - tells people how important they are to you.  If you are seeking to be more influential whether you're in a role with formal authority or not, your attention to communication processes will help you.  This may be termed a soft skill, but it returns hard, tangible results when executed well.

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