Staff Communication: The Secret Isn’t Words

By Leon Noone 

Managers are the biggest single cause of poor communication with employees. This idea isn’t new. Jack Welch said so long ago. He was Chairman and CEO of General Electric from 1980 to 2001.

What Jack Welsh Said

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review while CEO of GE, he said…

“Insecure managers create complexity. Frightened, nervous managers use thick, convoluted planning books and busy slides filled with everything they’ve known since childhood… People must have the self-confidence to be clear and precise; to be sure that every person in the organization – highest to lowest – understands what the business is trying to achieve… People worry that if they’re simple, people will think they’re simple-minded. In reality of course, it’s just the reverse.”

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The Vital Secret

Successful staff communication is the transfer of understanding. That’s the vital secret. If your staff don’t understand what you’re saying or writing, you’ll have poor communication. And you’ll be responsible.

Not Only Jack…

My first job as a specialist trainer was in a multinational mining and chemical refining company back in 1971. Among other programs, we ran the stock-standard Supervisor Training courses that were popular 40 years ago. My boss was Peter Brougham. He was an industrial chemist by profession. When talking to supervisors about staff communication he emphasized three things.

· We think in pictures

· The purpose of communication is to transfer the picture in your head into the head of your listener or reader

· The opinions that people hold are facts to them.

Flat Earth Or Round?

Let’s say you have a colleague who believes that the earth is flat. You won’t get far by producing lots of compelling and cogent reasons that prove the earth to be round – or spherical if you want to be pedantic. This approach may even create greater resistance! You may win the argument but fail to communicate.

No! You’ll need to work with the picture your colleague already holds: that the earth is flat. Then you’ll need to provide a picture that they can accept of a “round” world. And they must “understand” the difference in their terms.

Communications and Logic

Your colleague will not accept your “round” world position merely because you have the better argument. There’s more than logic and power involved in effective communications.

Mind What Another Jack Said…

Another Jack, Jack Trout, suggests five statements to consider when communicating with staff.

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