Keep in touch
We live in an age where face-to-face communication is no longer necessary for
doing business. People sitting at computer terminals can do almost anything
without needing to interact with others. It is simple for a company to assign
tasks to its employees through mass mailers, and receive the results electronically.
However, humans are still social beings, and even silence means more than a
thousand words. A successful enterprise requires a human face and effective
communication to dispel misconceptions that may arise from misinterpreted policies.
That is what Jim Shaffer proves with examples in his book, The Leadership Solution,
where he outlines strategies to resolve such misconceptions.
What lies beneath
Shaffer begins with cases where either the lack of communication conveyed entirely
the wrong meaning or an open approach was misunderstood. He cites the example
of a CEO who stamped all company information with a 'Not Confidential' seal,
and circulated the information. The upshot was that employees thought that they
were being excluded from all significant information, because the existence
of a 'Not Confidential' stamp suggested the existence of a corresponding 'Confidential'
stamp, which no employee had never set eyes on. The CEO did not have a 'Confidential'
stamp. The end result was that the CEO was under the impression that he had
opened all doors to his employees. Naturally he felt that the workers were being
unreasonable. On the other hand, a dissatisfied workforce believed that the
CEO was hoarding information that he would not share.
Understand the concept
||Title: The Leadership Solution
Author: Jim Shaffer
Publication: Tata McGraw-Hill
Price: Rs 250
After establishing this premise, the author devotes time to
define effective communication. After presenting a number of hypotheses, Shaffer
quotes Jack Welch, ex-chairman GE: "Communication means everybody having
the same set of facts. A leader must lead by ideas, not by controlling information."
He then explains that people emulate their leaders. The process of communication
has to begin with the leader's actions. All too often, it happens that a policy
of information sharing is set, but the actions and environment suggest otherwise.
For instance, if all the executives sit on one floor that is furnished very
differently from the rest of the office, there is no need for a prohibition
noticethe average employee will feel awkward about approaching senior
management, and will, by and large, stay away. The office environment therefore
has to be conducive to interaction at all levels.
Evolve with time
The only permanent thing is change. Clichéd as that sounds, it is a universal
truth, and the book alerts all organisations to avoid complacency once a free
environment has been established. Communication needs and means evolve, and
it is important to keep pace with that. Shaffer states that in a world where
customer demands and standards shift daily, people need latitude to make quick
decisions. We can't expect them to 'do it the way they have always done
it,' if it is no longer the best way, or if it has become irrelevant to their
business needs," he writes.
What needs to be said
Having established a blueprint for communication strategy, the book expands
on what people need to know if they are to be efficient workers. There are four
aspects an organisation must clarify to its workforce:
Context: Every employee must know where the company
stands in the market, and where he or she stands within the company.
Vision and strategy: The future of the company as
the management has visualised it, and how the management plans to accomplish
its goals has to be communicated.
Linkage: How the individual's work connects to the
companys objectives, and how the company, individual and teams will benefit
once the goal is achieved.
Support: How the organisation will provide the required
Although the order of concepts could be modified, the book covers all the important
tenets of communication. It will make good reading for any CIO managing HR functions
of the teamand aspiring to manage a company someday.
- Deepali Gupta