Communication Goes Both Ways.


quo vadisIn our last post I wrote about the importance of one-way communication. This week, we will take a look at two-way communication. Once again I will address a few critical, and often overlooked, things to focus on.

It seems so obvious…but it’s not. Why are you having the conversation? All too often, the people engaged in a discussion go into it with different assumptions about the roles each are playing and what that means to the outcome.

The most common misunderstanding has to do with decision-making. Why does she ask our opinion? She never listens to us when it really matters! Chatter like this takes place thousands of times a day. It fosters resentment, raises resistance, and eats at credibility. It is also easily addressed on the front end. Be explicit about why you are engaging people in the conversation.

I want your advice on a change that I am considering making. I will listen, and will weigh your input carefully…but it is my decision to make.

I have decided that we are moving forward with this change. I know that you have concerns, and it is important that we get them out on the table. I will work with you to figure out how we address them. 

Right now it seems that each of us has our own priorities. The result is that we are working against one another, instead of supporting one another. We need to agree as a team what the priorities are; if we cannot, then I will take your input and set the priorities for us. 

In each of these examples, the purpose of the conversation is made clear. It may be to inform a decision, to help make a decision, or to explore what will get in the way of successfully executing a decision that has already been made. At the end of the day, there is no question, though. Participants understand the roles they are to play in the discussion.

The second topic I want to address is the role of two-way communication and resistance.

We have talked before about the fact that people resist change, whether they perceive it as negative or positive. And, we’ve discussed the fact that if you don’t see resistance, either the change is being executed at a superficial level, or the resistance is underground.

Two-way communication–when done in an open and trusting environment–is a means of both surfacing and addressing resistance. Again, you have to be explicit about the purpose of the conversation, e.g. There is no question that the change is being made. What I am seeking is your input on the best way to move it forward. 

There are a few keys to successfully engaging people in this type of conversation. First, you need to be open to hearing what others have to say. If you do it for appearance-sake, you are undermining yourself and the change.  Second, people need to be able to trust you if they are to be truthful with you; recognize and value–don’t shoot–the messenger. Third, you need to respond to what you hear, and the sooner, the better; when you respond, be as explicit as possible.

I hear your concern about the fact that you were not consulted on this decision. It was a highly personal one, and one that I had to make on my own. Now that it is made, I am open to working with you on how to carry it out.

 I don’t yet know which of our locations we will be letting go of. That decision will be made within the next 45 days; as soon as it is, I will let you know.

I understand how much time it takes to complete that analysis each week, and agree that while the results are interesting, they don’t drive decisions. Effective immediately, let’s discontinue it.

If you are going to successfully move through a change, whether personal or organizational, maintain two-way communication with those who will be making the journey with you. It will help make the navigation a lot more sure.

Feel free to share your own insights and experiences.

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