Hi. I’m Blake Repine and welcome to Strategy, Leadership and Impact.
Welcome back to Strategy, Leadership and Impact. I’m your host Blake Repine. Again, thank you for all the support I’ve been receiving for the podcast and if you have a question, comment or a topic you would like for me to talk about, please feel free to email me at email@example.com or you can actually connect with me on LinkedIn. Just search my name Blake Repine and send me a message through there.
Also we have something big coming out over the next week or two. My new website that will be a platform for me to host the podcast on will be out. Also you may have noticed for this episode I have updated the podcast art. Quite happy with it, the way that that looks. That was done by the same person that’s doing my website. Again it’s just another way to get the message out.
Speaking of getting messages out, that’s a good segue into today’s topic and what I want to talk about is communications and in most organizations, you receive feedback that communication sucks.
I don’t know that I’ve ever worked somewhere or worked with an organization or worked with other people or heard comments from peers of mine that work in other organizations that say, “Oh, communications and the flow of communications in an organization is perfect or great.” Most of the time it’s good at best. But the majority of times, it’s not very good at all and it’s interesting.
So really share with you some of the things I found and learned around communications. One is we have to communicate consistently and we have to communicate all the time in what we’re trying to get across, the message, and we have to do that in multiple avenues. But also we have to remember that communications is a loop and we have to allow feedback for communications.
Sometimes that feedback isn’t as apparent as we think it might be. It’s not necessarily we ask a question and they give us an answer and things like that. Sometimes we have to put out information and see what comes back. Whenever I say see what comes back – and something else too. The bigger the organization, the harder it can be to communicate effectively across the whole organization.
So we have to communicate to large groups of people and that can actually be ineffective to receive feedback. One of the things I do is I encourage all of my direct reports as well as encourage them to encourage people that direct to them – report to them to give them feedback. But I will put out information and then wait and see what I hear back.
So we’re constantly encouraging people to bring forward your comments, bring forward your concerns, bring forward your own ideas and then be open to that. But whenever you’re putting out information, listen to what they say but also to – sometimes people’s actions are the feedback and I will give you an example of this in a business.
If you’re selling a product or service, sometimes it’s not how people buy your product or service, but it’s how they apply your product or service, how they’re actually using that product or service. That actually tells you and gives you feedback on what your business should be doing.
Sometimes people are resistant to that one. They’re not looking at that. They’re saying, “Oh, they’re buying,” measure the buying habits. But what are the usage habits of that product or service? We need to look at that as well.
Again, we don’t typically have systems set up for that. Same thing too. If you’re putting out information and you’re communicating to your organization or your stakeholders, it could be your staff, your board, whatever. How they’re actually acting on that information is your feedback and you need to really be aware and use that awareness to gather that feedback.
It’s watching, listening, just seeing what they’re doing. Sometimes it might not be a follow-up question that they ask. Sometimes it might not be a comment that they make. It could very much be what they’re doing and that too, we communicate consistently the same message. Try not to change the message regardless of what avenue you’re communicating it in because when people are listening to what you’re saying, you have no idea what part of what you’re saying is going to resonate with them, what part of what you’re saying is going to stick with them.
It could be different and it will be different across multiple people within the organization or the team. So you have to see and say, “OK. Which part did they get this time? What part do I need to reinforce with this person or this group?” and et cetera.
Also the intent or the – how something is perceived is very difficult for you to determine as well. You can say, “Well, this is the message I want to give out.” But how people are receiving that can be something completely different and if you don’t know how they’re actually – you know, what is the message that they’re receiving? How are they perceiving what you’re wanting to achieve or what you’re wanting to communicate can be quite different and sometimes people too, they don’t know when they’re being communicate with, if that makes sense.
I will give you an example of this. So going through a large implementation, implementing a new system, large project. I actually had a couple of people managing the project for us come and meet with – met with some key people within the organization. This was very early on, right at the very beginning and actually went over this is what the system does. This is how it could be leveraged to use within your organization. They actually spent several hours with these key people in the organization to determine how is it they would want to use this system, how they would want to potentially tailor it or apply it within their own areas, et cetera. So spent nearly half a day doing this.
The next day, one of those key people in the organization says, “Oh, yeah, we’re implementing this new system. When am I going to be consulted? When am I going to be a part of the project?” and that kind of blew my mind and went, “Well, what did you do for half a day yesterday?” because they didn’t feel like that was part of a communications process actually sitting in the room with the key players from the organization that had that system that we were going to implement and actually learning about it and talking with them and communicating with them how we would like to see that system used within our organization.
I found that very interesting but I can probably give you example after example of this. Maybe not to that scale where communicating with people, you actually ask them for their feedback, their ideas or their concerns around things and they give it to you and they still don’t feel like they’re being communicated with. That sometimes can be difficult.
Also if you look at things from a customer service perspective and dealing with the public or people outside your organization, that can be challenging. It can be something that you want to be able to do very well. Sometimes people actually make it difficult for you to do very well.
I will give you an example of this. Front-facing staff I guess that dealt with the public. We’re dealing with a very difficult person in the community who actually didn’t understand what our organization did and trying to communicate to them that look, you’re coming to us for help and you’re coming to us to solve this problem. But we actually don’t do that. That’s not part of our business. It’s not even related to what our business does.
But yet this person continually showed up and actually almost to – in a threatening manner with our front line staff and insisted and demanded that we do this thing to help her out and to help this person out. We just couldn’t and that’s very difficult. But that comes back to – it’s a communication issue. How do you communicate to someone to educate them about what you don’t do?
That sometimes is kind of like whenever your identity gets stolen. It is incredibly difficult to prove to someone who you’re not. It’s easier to prove who you are. Just think about that for a minute and let that sink in. Try to tell someone what you don’t do.
Sometimes it’s quite easy. But other times, it can be quite difficult particularly if something might be slightly related, but it’s not the same. When we talk about communication shared terminology. Not necessarily a shared language. It could be a shared language. But whenever you look at the nature of businesses nowadays, the nature of any departments really, they’re more multicultural than they had been in the past.
So we actually have multiple languages, multiple customs, which means translates into different non-verbal type communications and that can create barriers within organizations. But how are we addressing these barriers and how are we getting around that to – in order to make sure we’re still communicating effectively and we’re not actually insulting someone unintentionally or doing those cultural faux pas that can be very disruptive and being careful with that.
I think really that goes a long way from both sides to understanding, “Oh, this person probably didn’t mean that. Let me go educate them around my background or whatever, so they understand it,” and we get through that and it probably wasn’t intentional. But from organization to organization, even if we speak the same language, sometimes we have different terminology even within the same industry.
You can see that you see certain acronyms that are used at different places that are within – in the same industry. But the acronyms mean something completely different and there again, you can go to a different industry and they use the same acronym that means something completely different. That can make it challenging.
One of the things that – or an exercise that I went through several years ago now, that actually helps us. Someone told me, they said, “Explain to someone what you do without using any of your industry jargon, without using any industry speak. Use plain language,” and try to go through that, particularly if you’re in a highly technical field or something that – or in a field that does use a lot of acronyms or a lot of jargon and try to explain to someone, family member, whoever, what you do without using any jargon and see how you actually can translate that.
I actually use this too with some of my colleagues that I was in the military with. Try to explain what you did in your branch of service to a civilian, to someone who hasn’t served because they use a large amount of jargon, a lot of very specific type language. But it’s no different than several other industries that are out there and see how well you can do that and translate what you do into normal speak and that might actually resonate with some more people.
But at the end of the day, communications is incredibly important within organizations, whether it be this verbal, non-verbal data whatever, however we’re communicating with the organization, and make sure that the most important thing is you’re getting feedback on your communication, so that you can adjust, so that you can tailor those communications to those groups that you’re trying to communicate with and get your message across effectively.
If you don’t have effective communications within your organization, have a look at it and see – remember, communicating to people is a leadership attribute. It’s not an email. Don’t rely on social media to communicate with people. Pick up the phone every now and again and call them.
Quite often we will respond to an email with a phone call. People sometimes that haven’t worked with me previously find this a bit odd at first. They go, “Wow. I sent you an email and you’re calling me to talk about it.”
Sometimes with a phone call, we can actually get through a conversation that is started with an email or ongoing through an email much quicker. But also too, if you get up and walk to someone’s office that’s right around the corner and sit down and have a chat with them about it, you can look at these non-verbal communications.
Sometimes you can see when some people might not agree with you based off their non-verbal actions and you can address it right then and there versus in an email. Sometimes the tone is lost. Also too you don’t know sometimes when someone comes across in a negative manner so to speak or whatever in an email. But whenever you actually sit down and talk with them, that wasn’t their intent at all.
So talk to people. Really that’s the message. So anyway, have a great week and I will come back at you again next week. Thank you.