four dialogic principles for successful communication

By: Lee Hopkins

"But you don't understand!" exclaimed the manager, "this new
initiative is vital for our team. If it doesn't work we could
all be out of a job!"

"Uh-huh... Really... Explain to me again how this new initiative
is so different from previous initiatives that were also going
to cost me my job if they didn't work" asked the long-term
employee.

"Look; we have to do this. Can't you see?"

"Why do we have to do this? No-one has explained to me yet
'why'."

And therein lies the fundamental problem of most management
initiatives. They leave one small, seemingly insignificant cog
unattended—letting the person at the 'sharp end' know why a new
initiative has been launched and what their own personal role is
expected to be.

Even those companies who do let the employees know the what and
why very often fail to elicit anything other than tacit
compliance and eventual failure of the initiative.

The reason is simple—the employees are given no part in the
discussion about why a new initiative is needed, the business
case for it, what shape the initiative should take to meet the
business need, and what their individual role and responsibility
is in order to bring the initiative to a successful conclusion.

At the heart of the issue lies communication:

Successful communication is not a one-to-one or one-to-many
transaction, but a dialogue between interested parties

...and successful dialogues rely on four principles: Reality,
Reaction, Co-ordination and Purposefulness.

1. Being real
"Do not say things. What you are stands over you the while, and
thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary"
Charles Darwin, 1859.

For employees (and customers, too!) 'reality' will be those
things that most directly affect them. Yes, 'reality' is a
perceptive subjectivity, but don't expect someone to change
their perception of 'reality' just because you have a different
viewpoint.

Internal and external customers of your communication are
extremely adapt at seeing 'beyond the rhetoric', at exploiting
any gap between rhetoric and their 'reality'.

If you are going to promise something, even just manage an
expectation, ensure that what you are promising or managing is
actually deliverable in the vast majority of instances.

2.

React to what is said
How many managers or salespeople have we ourselves had to endure
who listened politely to what you say, nodded their head and
gave assuring "ah ha's" even, yet completely and utterly fail to
act on what you have said? How many times have such interactions
left you feeling like you had just spoken to a smiling and
amiable wall?

Dialogue is not dialogue if the other person or persons don't
react or show they actually understood what you said.

3. Co-ordinate your communication
Too often the communication is 'lost' on the recipients because
the language used is jargon, or their are just too many implicit
and explicit messages. Given a hundred different messages, which
one should the recipient attend to first? Second? Last?

All communication should be in harmony to the strategic
framework—that is, the vision and the support documentation—so
that it responds to the vision, objectives and values; so that
the links between the vision and the messages are clear; and so
that the language used is common to all stakeholders.

4. Understanding the purpose of the message
Before even beginning a communication process, it is vital to
understand what the customer or employee knows and feels about
you and the ideas you represent. Knowing this helps you decide
the purpose of the message.

Akin to Maslow's psychological heirarchy, there are four levels
of purpose, each of which pre-supposes and relies on the
existence of the previous level. They are sequential and it is
not possible to achieve an objective until all levels are
completed, in order and fully.

The levels, in ascending order are:
Awareness > Understanding > Conviction > Action

4.1: Awareness
Let's take as an example a company attempting to differentiate
itself in the marketplace, with the end goal of bringing someone
to make a purchase of their service.

Without bringing your existence to the attention of the
prospective customer you cannot move on to the higher levels.
Indeed, even internal communications often fall short on this
point: they fail to restate the context of the communication,
which is in effect 'awareness'.

4.2: Understanding
Once a prospect has gained awareness, they are then ready to
move on to understanding what it is that differentiates you from
the 'noise' of your competitors. They will need to understand
what specific qualities YOU bring to the marketplace.

This level is vital to internal communication: the biggest block
I come across in assessing why an internal communication has
failed is not that the staff don't know 'what' is going on, but
that they don't understand 'why' it is going on.

4.3: Conviction
Customers now have awareness and understanding; they now need
convincing that your service is right for them.

Even more importantly, they must be convinced that YOU must be
their supplier, because YOU have a distinctive competence that
meets THEIR specific needs.

4.4: Action
Finally, this conviction in you must be turned into action. It
is up to you to decide what action they should ideally take -— a
phone call into a sales office, perhaps, or a request for a
consultant to visit; even a request for further supporting
literature.

In internal communication the primary level is all to obvious —-
action. Yet unless those who are to deliver the service are made
aware, helped to understand and are convinced they will not
deliver effectively or efficiently.

Conclusion
==========
At the heart of all management lies communication, and
successful communication is not a one-to-many transaction, but a
dialogue between interested parties. Successful dialogues rely
on four principles: Reality, Reaction, Co-ordination and
Purposefulness.

Understanding what the other's 'reality' is, giving and
receiving appropriate reactions to feedbackArticle Search, co-ordinating
coherent messages and understand the purpose of each message are
the four key principles for successful communication.

Communications
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