Aspiring to be a better communicator? Expand your vocabulary. Modulate your voice. This is familiar advice. The direct approach.
Could the areas to work on be less direct, and more impactful?
An individual becomes a better communicator if the area he or she has worked on is clear thinking. If there is a quality workshop or a course on ‘effective thinking’, I would advise every individual intent on becoming a better communicator to choose that over a communications training program. I believe it will be more impactful. No individual on becoming a better thinker fails to communicate better.
Further, an individual becomes a better communicator if he or she has become one with silence. Yes. Silence. We learn to inhabit silence and our peace and comfort grows. In that space, we find immense power to regather our real self. We become one – with silence, with ourselves, with the moment. Better communication results.
Let us move onto a group scenario.
If an entire unit of people at the same level – shop floor assistants, telecallers or operations staff – is found wanting in clear communication, the easiest and most predictable thing to do is to organize a communications training program for the whole bunch. People are even relieved that everybody is being trained in one go for one need. They assume this will help the team pull together in one direction. This is, of course, the direct approach.
In fact, if all individual feedbacks are the same, that is a smoking gun. This points to the fact that the problem lies elsewhere, at a different level. The similar outcome stems from a set of causes, either singular or multiple. When the level of water in a reservoir changes in quantity or nature, do we confine our attention and study to just the reservoir itself? No, we don’t. We trace it back to the source. Similarly, in human performance, we need to trace the source. The biggest fallacy is to seek the source in atomized individuals. It is as easy as it is misleading.
The sources of this performance challenge will likely include the supervisors, managers, and team-leaders. Perhaps, it is this level that needs the training even more! The subtle sources invariably turn out to be structure and process.
If an organizational unit as a structural unit is subordinated to another unit, then this has a powerful bearing on performance.For example, in such a scenario, customer service callers are unable to confront sales guys for making false promises in the field. Within the organization, the pecking order is clear. Sales guys are kings. Customer service takes the rap from disgruntled customers. And on a customer service call, they cannot show their sales colleagues in poor light by owning up to their mistakes. That was tried once and not tolerated in an ugly fracas that escalated to higher management and left a bitter taste. So, customer service guys in communications will be evasive, vague, and unhelpful. Their performance has little to do with their individual skillsets. It is a structural challenge. If training does not address structure, it will be symptomatic relief.
More often than not, the areas to work on for any performance challenge, are not the ones that surface as bubbles. What surfaces is just the symptom. Not the real cause. We need to uncover the real cause. And that takes some work.