Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Soft Skills - Solid Results

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” - Rollo May

Effective communication is a cornerstone of any transformation project. It is basic Transformation fuel. Without effective, people-centered communication, our Transformation efforts will sputter, lurch, and eventually grind to a halt.

I recently sent an email to a number of friends and fellow change agents who have been following the Defense Business Transformation program. I wished them well, updated them on what I’m doing, shared a few words about where they can find quality information. Check out some of the responses I got back:

  • “...thanks for keeping me in the loop...”
  • “...thanks for keeping in touch.”
  • “Great to hear from you!! Keep the updates coming!”
  • “Good to hear from you. As usual, you provide plenty of interesting and informative news. I miss the meetings.”
  • “Hearing from you is like bursting out of the ocean deep! Fresh air and sunshine! Please keep me on your "things you should know" list. It's been awfully quiet (here) since you left and we're hearing through the grapevine that the weekly (town) meetings are OBE. Whatever the case, thank you for continuing your communications.”

Communication is the glue that bonds people together, motivates them, and makes the impossible possible. Good communication makes a difference.

I’m not just talking about the kind of communication that passes factual information from one person to another. We can get that kind of communication from a newspaper subscription. And what happens to a newspaper once it’s read?... I’m talking about the kind of communication that conveys emotion and trust: rich, gooey, pudding communication instead of the thin, sterile water stuff we see in memos.

Effective communication is measured by the response you get. It isn’t in how splashy your brief was, how many big words or buzz words you use, or in how dense your material is.

The richer the communication and the more channels you use, the better. People like video, audio, color, facial expressions, and just about anything that provides that something extra. Think about it, which would you prefer? A fireside chat with a friend you know, like and trust; or an hour at a wooden conference table staring at a PowerPoint presentation ?

If we want to affect behavior, we have to get out of our offices and cubes and mix it up with people. Listen to what’s going on. Try to understand what are problems for people and what excites them. Listen first, then speak in terms that they can understand and appreciate. Use the Web, a Blog, your feet, your ears - whatever it takes. Use them all and use them often.

As a communication program matures, it gets focused. Setting up a podium on main street and delivering speeches about fertilizer is less effective than visiting a gardener's convention and delivering the same speech.

Try adding deliberate communication to your program. You’ll discover greater success in whatever effort you’re committed to, and like the responses you see above, you’ll find that people really appreciate it.

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