I just concluded a series of leadership courses from the Partner-Pipeline for a multi-office firm. In the senior manager course, they learned how to lead a change initiative, whether it be in their firm or with clients. One of the key points of change management is that the presenting problem is seldom the problem and rushin’ to solve it doesn’t really address the root problem. Over time, the root problem will reveal itself again in some other way. So it is imperative to identify the root issue and deal with it.
Take communication for example. When there is a communication breakdown, that’s not the problem. It’s because there is a root issue that shows itself in the communication process. Here are four common root causes to miscommunication.
Clarity Issue. When you haven’t taken the time to fully think through what you want to say, you use verbal clutter (um…uh…you know…and stuff). Or you may interrupt yourself by getting half way through your sentence, stop and start a new sentence. It is all very confusing and leads people down a foggy path to nowhere. Think first, then speak with confidence and people will trust what you say.
Fear Issue. Whenever the communication is delayed or withheld, it is often a result of a fear you have. For instance, you may fear that your input isn’t valid or useful, so you say nothing. Or you may fear being perceived as stupid or that you might create conflict or hurt feelings, so you retire to the quiet corner. You have to get out of your oyster shell and speak up.
Aggression Issue. Yes, even you can be aggressive. Yelling and screaming definitely interferes with communication, but so does passive aggression. Regardless of how big a lobster you think you are, you are shrimp when you know something but don’t say it to teach a lesson, assert your importance or demonstrate that people don’t know their jobs. Withholding communication interrupts flow and is very unbecoming of you.
Apathy Issue. This is one that you don’t want to admit because it really isn’t your intent, but it’s true: You don’t care. You don’t care enough to pay attention and then hide behind being too busy, forgetting, or the classic, “yeah, it’s on my list.” This is especially difficult when it’s your job, but if you really don’t care and don’t want to participate, negotiate a solution. Otherwise, step up and be responsible.
The next time there is a breach of communication flow, don’t just toss it in the barrel and be a shooter of symptoms. Look for the root issue and solve that. Make a genuine effort today to resolve your miscommunication. Then you can celebrate success. Na Zdorovie!