May 26, 2009 Chris Fuller

Has your communication ever led you off a cliff?

Last week we talked about Influence and used the acronym BARK. I think we’ll use that as a segway to talk about the communication culture with the team.

It’s almost stereotypical to talk about barking at each other. A tremendous number of organizations have severe communications issues within their teams, as well as, outside their teams to their customers, vendors, and investors. Millions of dollars are spent every year on trying to help people learn how to communicate and how to communicate more effectively.

When communication is done well, it can lead the team to victory and when it is dysfunctional, it can lead your team off a cliff or down any number of ravines!

Communication is the greatest asset a corporate culture can develop, to gain the highest rate of return. When people can communicate with clarity, goals are achieved easily, and swift. When employees have an open understanding of the way others think and feel, they are able to manage conflict, overcome challenges, and communicate solutions quickly.

Those who can communicate well can change the world. (and often do!) Those who learn to shape their message, effectively transfer that message and motivate others to action often rise to the position of leadership within an organization. They become the team’s Musher!

Mushers that have difficulty communicating tend to lose support for existing initiatives, rarely gain support for new initiatives, and are left with only their title or positional power to try to force engagement from their team.

In dog sled mushing, you may be surprised to learn, they do not use whips or reigns. In order to control, motivate, correct, adjust, etc., the leader must verbally communicate that to the team. Mushing has its’ own language and it contains about 10 to 20 words – that’s it. The simplicity of the language is vital in order to communicate to the team, communicate with speed and precision, and get the team to act on that communication.

Act on the communication. Isn’t that the goal of our communication? Action.

For a good amount of the time I would agree. However, there are times when our communication is there to simply inform, maintain team continuity, or to create or maintain connectedness. Most times, communication effectiveness increases where there is connectedness and relationship. As action oriented as most of us are, we can’t forget that the ACTION of relationship development is one of the first keys to effectively transferring communication into action.

Just like the Iditarod has different challenges on different parts of the trail – our business communication trail has differing landscapes. How we navigate each of those affects our race success.

Knowing that all leaders have strengths and weaknesses; can we take a minute and look at our business race? Where on the trail are you strong in communication and where are you, presently, weak?

Sections on the communication trail are: one-on-one conversations, one-to-many conversations, meetings, vision casting, presentations, confrontation, demonstration, delegation, accountability,…. And the list goes on. It is, truly, a long trail.

Take a minute today and some time the rest of the week and think about your communication strengths and weaknesses. Write it down and let’s develop a game plan to become masters at communicating in all areas of life and business.

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