Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Improving Organizational Communication

THEME: Spring 2010 From Vision to Action Roundtable Report

FOCUS: Improving Organizational Communication

Tuesday morning: June 1, 2010

Dear friends,

With many organizations moving faster and faster at the tactical and strategic levels, communications is suffering. When this happens, we need to remember the first three disciplines from Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Jossey-Bass, 2000, as we solve this problem. They are as follows:

- Discipline One: Build and Maintain A Cohesive Leadership Team

- Discipline Two: Create Organizational Clarity

- Discipline Three: Over-communicate Organizational Clarity

If we seek a realistic solution to improved communication, then we need to create organizational clarity and over-communicate it. The first step is to remember Marcus Buckingham’s comments about fear in his book, The One Thing You Need to Know ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Free Press, 2005. Here, he outlined the “Five Fears” we all share. The first is our fear of death, our own and our family’s. Leaders work with this fear by recognizing our need for security. The second is our fear of the outsider which can be resolved by the development of community. The third is our fear of the future which can be eased by an organization having a clear sense of direction. The fourth fear is the fear of chaos which recognizes our desire as people for sound leadership, and the need for someone to make the right decisions. The final fear is the fear of insignificance. We solve this one by recognizing our desire to want to know that our work is making a difference. As Buckingham constantly points out, when you want to manage, begin with the person; when you want to lead, begin with the picture of where you are headed.

Not too long ago, I was invited to lunch with two exceptional women executives. We met at a restaurant and they encouraged me to order first. Being born wet and hungry, I ordered up a plate full of slow burning protein and complex carbs plus a house salad. They each ordered a glass of water with lemon and half a salad. Once my embarrassment about ordering so much had passed, they shared with me that they were struggling with communications at the senior team level. They could not figure out what the problem was but thought that a communications workshop would be helpful. As we talked about what was happening, I discovered that the main problem mostly resolved around a senior leader sending mixed signals and those listening not being able to generate a clear picture of the future.

In particular, when we communicate, it is essential that we are clear about what we are communicating and what we are expecting. For example, many issues are brought up at the senior team level but the individual who surfaces these issues is not clear about whether or not they are sharing information for input, seeking consultation before a decision, wanting help to coordinate different parts of the strategy, or communicating a decision that has already been made. We, at times, forget that what is evident to a leader may or may not be evident to a follower or colleague. Therefore, it is time to clarify and/or explain the obvious.

This week clarify inside your own head first what you are trying to say and why before you open your mouth.

Have a delightful week,


Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

1 comment:

  1. Geery thanks for your post. I spent time this weekend noodling on this notion of organizational clarity.

    :Are you enamored with black and white approximations of life? Is your sense of equilibrium and equality governed by stable platforms of immutable laws? What are these laws… and what are the values that govern your organization’s position on the jousting fields of competitive advantage?

    I’m suggesting we sit in the rich space of story. When we agitate the potential cacophony of stories we invite a chorus of perspectives. Stories are sacred because by their nature they’re non dualistic.

    So clarity emerges from uncertainty."

    Here's a link to my two minute video story on organizational clarity...


    Warm regards,