Overcoming Communication Barriers
In a multi-focused business environment it is often difficult to get your message up and running.
Overcoming communication barriers – Are you an athlete?
See yourself as a hurdles champion the next time you need to communicate something important to your organisation. In the same way that obstacles on the track test the mettle of star performers, you can train yourself to identify and overcome the barriers to communication that exist in every enterprise.
Consider these generalisations as you think and plan ahead:
Organisation Culture – How fit are you?
Broadly described as 'the way we do things around here', an organisation's culture acts as a filter for the communication shared within it. What filters does your organisation use? Gossamer, casting a gentle veil over everything? Sea sand to tackle the grime? Reinforced glass walls – great for visibility but nothing gets through?
Is the culture selective by supporting some messages, tolerating a few prickly matters and completely ignoring others? What are its preferences? Will they assist, strain, hinder or embrace your message?
Plan how you will approach and manage reluctance, resistance and refusal. In addition, what will you do about enthusiastic uptake and maintaining momentum once you've delivered your message?
Inter-department factors – Will you pass the baton in the relay?
Within the general business culture, departmental interpretations and perspectives come into play. Account for differences in disciplines, experiences and roles; they all have an impact on understanding, acceptance and insight.
Frame the message to reflect both value and respect for all areas of the business if you want it to work. Expect that different areas will see and interpret the message from their viewpoint, not yours. Be ready to answer their questions.
When preparing, be sure to gain insight from various departmental perspectives and include these, with appropriate credits, in your message.
Interpersonal considerations – What are their preferences – the 100-metre sprint, the relay or the steeplechase?
How we are as people also makes a difference to the uptake of a message. Know your audience. Who are you speaking to and how do they see and interpret events? Find out the variations in communication styles and individual expectations before you deliver your message to them. How do they communicate with others ... and with you? Are you open, generous and willing to take the inevitable knock backs that come with candid contact?
Take these finer details into account to reflect diversity, opportunity and flexibility for all in your message.
In addition to considering the impact on people, think about the context of the message.
The role that processes play – How sturdy, how high and how tough are the hurdles?
Do the in-built processes of your organisation act as oil, glue or blockages? Use your imagination to find ways to ease the pathway of your message through the processes to the people.
If your message purpose announces a 'new way' for the organisation, you need to consider the steps involved in making this work. Be sure to include the 'why to's, what to's and how to's' that flag the major steps along the way.
Clearly communicate expectations and outcomes. Repeat them often and ask for comment. Provide people with multiple opportunities and channels to clarify their roles in the process. Expect them to express a range of feelings and watch out for the manifestation of feelings in a range of behaviours and behaviour changes.
Technological factors – Who else is using the showers?
Accept that technology can hinder as well as help your message. Use technology selectively and with clear thought before you send your message out across the organisation.
Choose your channels of communication carefully.
It is practical to use a number of channels to express vital and important messages. Keep channels open for feedback and responses. Make contingency plans to cope with misinterpretations and transmission failures.
Be willing to change channels if the message demands it.
What is your organisation's take on time?
Always remember that quick fixes do to an organisation what fast food does to an athlete's body!
An organisation's view on 'time allowed' and 'time available' is often part of its unique culture. If everything is fast and furious in your organisation, realise it will take longer for your message to get through. Why? Because a fast pace and tight timelines diminish the opportunity for people to concentrate on one thing at a time. They will need to revisit the message on a few occasions and in different ways before it takes hold in their mind.
In addition, tight timelines diminish the chance for interaction and collaboration. If you want your people to embrace your message, you must allow time in which they can connect and share their thoughts and feelings with others ... and with you. Perhaps you need to delay the sharing of your message if you want people to spend the best amount of time on it.
Take your marks!
Of course, these are only a few challenges that you may encounter in your bid to become a champion hurdler of communication barriers.
Take time to identify those barriers that are unique to your organisation, its departments, the people, technology and processes within it.Only then will you find the best way to approach your task and deliver your message.
After all, is your message not worth every moment spent on it in thought, consideration, planning, delivering and reviewing?
Be an athlete!
Sandra Baigel is an engaging and thought-provoking speaker. Both passionate and knowledgeable about her subject matter, building relationships for success, she works responsively with audiences and inspires them to make small but significant changes to their interactions.
She regularly presents at workshops, seminars and association events where the aim is to help professionals and business people connect through candid conversation. For additional information visit www.voice-word.com.au Sandra can be contacted via the website or firstname.lastname@example.org
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