This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
Archive for May, 2011
Iâ€™m just back after an â€śofficialâ€ť training run.Â Those of you who know me, know I am passionate about chiwalking and running.Â Though a â€ślate in lifeâ€ť runner I came to believe what my trainer told me, that running is â€śperfect freedomâ€ť.Â It took three years to find any level of enjoyment, but I did and was getting quite confident and competent.
Last June due to unrelated injuries Michael and I stopped running.Â It started as a short break.Â We continued to chiwalk regularly and at a pretty fast pace â€“ racking in many kilometres up, over and around Mont Royal during the fall, winter and spring.Â In fact our winter chiwalks made the winter quite wonderful no matter what the conditions â€“ rain, snow, sleet, sunny, cloudy, -10C, -30C.Â They are all about focus and alignment two of my favourite things.
Now, almost a year later we realize that even though our chiwalks have no doubt kept us relatively fit, they aren’t giving us the same results as chirunning.Â Over the spring weâ€™ve integrated a few short 20 minute runs, but without any real discipline [and to be honest mostly downhill â€“ small cheat]. Â This morning was different.Â We followed lesson 1 of Danny Dreyerâ€™s training guide for beginners, a 12-week program to prepare for a 10K. We went for a relatively flat [not my favourite, since I like the variation of trail running] 5 minutes on and 1 minute off chirun repeated 6 times.
Big lesson:Â If you want to build and maintain capacity then thereâ€™s only one way to do it and thatâ€™s withÂ discipline and practice.
Youâ€™ll not be surprised to hear that this experience has made me think about whether and how we can achieve an adequate level of communication mastery in our organizations?
Relationships are fundamental to organizations.Â Organizations exist based on the assumption that working together we can do something we canâ€™t do alone.Â Given that human relationships without communication are impossible to imagine then communication mastery, must be a critical factor for success of any organization. But do we think about communication in that way?
I donâ€™t think we do. Â We may make the odd nod to individual development, butÂ Â institutionally I think we make the assumption that since virtually all employees can speak, write and hear then as an institution you’re communicating. Â This of course is simply not true.Â Any more than making the assumption if you can walk, you can run is true. [Or if you can walk youâ€™re walking in an aligned and efficient way that will protect your body [thatâ€™s another story].] It takes training, discipline and practice to build and maintain adequate levels of skill and capacity.
So, what would communication mastery look like?Â Not just for your employees or managers but for your institution as a whole?Â What are the institutional benefits of achieving that level of mastery?Â Where are you today in relationship to that level of mastery?Â What actions would you need to put in place to get there?Â And, how do you create the right conditions for achieving it?
I think these are fundamental institutional questions. Â Shouldn’t we be thinking about getting this conversation going? Â Are you ready?
You may recall Sherlock Holmes in Silver Blaze where he describes how heâ€™s able to solve the mystery as a result ofÂ â€ś… theÂ ”curious incident of the dog in the night-time”:
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”â€ť
What does this have to do with employee communication? Â Well, quite a lot I think.
Today, I’ve been catching up on e-mail after over a week away and I read an interesting e-mail from a friend of mine whoÂ is serving in Afghanistan with the US Air Force. Â He writes thoughtful and provoking letters on a pretty regular basis and his mindful missives are always compelling. Â He’s definitely not what you’d imagine as your usual guy at war.
This e-mail was especially interesting because he described what happened on his base in Kabul in the hours leading up to the announcement that Bin Laden had been killed. Â Specifically, “â€¦we were ready for the kick-off of the morning update meeting where everything in the AOR (Area of Responsibility) is covered – this is a computer briefing so you just log into the site and watch-listen. Briefings at this meeting are given on everything from what is being built in the AOR to the current threat level. It always starts on time, except for today. Turning on the TV to kill some time clued us into what was going on. The nation was on stand-by awaiting the Presidentâ€™s â€śSpecialâ€ť announcement late night in the States but early the next day here in Kabul. We could overhear people making comments about high level members receiving important calls (theyÂ didn’tÂ mute the conference mic) â€“ and then the media broke the story, Osama Bin Laden was dead and the U.S. was responsible.â€ť
So, just like it was for Sherlock Holmes, these troops recognized there was a ‘curious incident’: Â not meeting when they’d come to expect their regular morning meeting. Â While communicators were busy working on positioning and timing for the announcement, the troops were already reading the signs and coming to their own, and surprisingly accurate, conclusions about what was going on. You can’t fool mother nature. Â And, it seemsÂ you can’t fool employees.
Sometimes what we don’t do speaks more powerfully and accurately than what we do do.
My question: Â How can knowing this help us improve institutional communication?