That may sound odd given my role in helping improve communication, but it's actually important on a number of levels:
1) It's glib, but we all need to be aware of our personal strengths and weaknesses. I'm working on improving my communication, are you?
After all, if it's not a priority for you, why would it be for anyone else in your organisation?
2) Communication is too vital to be just left to the people who are good at it. Communications professionals sometimes focus too much on putting messages across (as I've mentioned, it tends to be a core part of their business case) and not enough time helping others communicate.
The grey financier, the quiet and mumbling engineer, (forgive the stereotypes for a moment) all have vital information they need to communicate with others for the good of the organisation.
What can we do?
- On a personal level, if you're a good outward communicator, or your job is largely "putting messages across" you should ask yourself: "am I a good listener? Do I listen enough?"
- Sometimes I see frustrated communications professionals who just want to get hold of the hiring process and make sure only good communicators get jobs here." It's a nice idea, but we have to live in the real world. Outside of the communication function we employ people primarily for their other skills. There isn't always a good communicator amongst the candidates and we can't always attract them even if there is.
- Most vitally, we need to understand our role as helping the people who need to communicate. Part of this is offering support services, both in terms of communications training and development and acting as an "agency" for internal clients who wish to publicise larger projects etc.
- On top of this, the new approach in internal communications needs to be about finding systematic ways to help the bulk of people (i.e. not naturally great communicators) in an organisation communicate with the people they need to. This requires an understanding of processes that people work with and the problems in communication between different groups.
- Potential remedies range from programs to bridge cultural gaps, through new channels of communication to changing the incentive schemes around activities. (This is a topic I'll pick up again later.)
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