Archive for the ‘Communication’ Tag

Rudderless Ship   2 comments

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For those of you who are leaders, let me tell you how vitally important your role is in whatever organization that you lead.  There are many times leaders feel that they work goes unnoticed.  I would say that this does occur at times.  A leader can easily become discouraged when it appears that they are not able to make much of a difference.  So let me start this post by saying to you, do not feel you are not having a positive impact.  An organization without leadership is an organization which is bound to fail.

I have recently become acutely aware of this reality.  I am observing an organization which is currently without a central leader.  This organization is going through challenges which is somewhat normal when a leader is not present.  Whenever this occurs, there are a few ways the organization can go.  The key to the future success of the organization is which choice the members make.  Right choices will allow sustainability until a new leader is identified.  Wrong choices can easily spell doom for the organization.

One of the choices in responses could be that there is a division of leadership and people carry through on their commitments.  This choice can be successful in the interim.  The key to this choice is clear division of responsibilities, consistent communication, and trust.  Those who take on the various leadership roles must be given the freedom to exercise their judgment.  The members must be willing to follow a variety of leaders and honor their leadership in their specific areas.  The benefit to this approach is a sharing of responsibility and an effort to lighten the load.

Another choice which can be made is for one leader to emerge as a temporary leader until a more permanent leader is identified.  The benefit to this approach is that one person is guiding the organization and all members know who to turn to with suggestions, concerns, and problems.  The key to this choice is trust.  The members must trust that the temporary leader will use wisdom in her/his guidance.  The members must then follow that guidance.

A third choice of response would be for no defined leadership to be empowered but instead everyone does what he/she thinks is best.  This often leads to confusion, bickering and power-struggles.  In the vacuum of leadership, various individuals try to assume control and yet no one follows.  There is no one to work toward compromise.  Disagreements and resentful feelings become the order of the day.  Continued fracturing will lead to the ultimate demise of the organization.  The organization truly becomes a rudderless ship.

So leaders, realize what a very important role you play in an organization.  Members, think carefully about how you choose to respond when you are in a period without central leadership.


Difficult Conversations   2 comments

Sometimes in life we are given the responsibility to have conversations that may be uncomfortable or difficult.  The conversation may be a sensitive matter.  The conversation may be with a person we are close with and whose feelings we would prefer to protect.  The conversation may be with a person who is difficult to deal with and/or someone who is prone to responding very negatively.  Whatever the details of the conversation, we each encounter times when we would prefer not having the conversation at all.  Yet, because of our position or some other responsibility, we must have the conversation.

What do you do?

First, let me state that there is no one “correct” way to have the conversation.  Second, there are skills that you can develop in both listening and communicating which can help to reduce the tension level in the conversation.  However, there are some general guidelines that I have adopted in my experiences of having these conversations.  Here is my list:

  1. Do not enter the conversation with the goal of assigning blame.
  2. Look at the person as a person, not a problem.
  3. Understand that everyone has a different perspective so you need to be open to hearing the other person’s perspective.
  4. Be honest without being mean.
  5. Clarify misunderstandings and/or different perspectives of a situation.
  6. Take ownership of what you can take ownership of and not assume all the aspects as your own.
  7. Maintain your sound level and pace of your words.
  8. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication.

This list is far from exhaustive.

What would you add to this list?

Trust As A Lynchpin   1 comment

Original caption: I decided to see if I could ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a member of a group that is struggling with trust issues.  I am not sure what precipitated the breakdown in trust but I definitely can observe the results.  Trust is a something that once it starts to dissolve, it is extremely hard to reform.  Trust is also the lynchpin that can hold a group together and keep it moving in a beneficial direction.  So this group having trust issues has led to a type of domino effect within the group.  Since people do not trust each other, and in some cases, some of the leadership, there are a lot of little fires that burn in various pockets of the group.

I think an important skill for leaders to have is to be able to get beyond the surface and find the real issues.  If a leader just deals with the little fires that seem to burst up in various areas, the leader is going to become exhausted because she/he will just be running from fire to fire.  While the leader is spending all of their time dealing with fires, the group flounders because in most cases there is no one setting direction for the group.  Some of the leaders within the group I mentioned at the start have been wise enough to look deeper than the surface fires and have found the root of most of the problems as being a disintegration of trust within the group.

So now that the problem is identified, the key is to find a solution unless the group itself is going to dissolve.  Identifying a lack of trust is much easier than rebuilding trust.  Here are some approaches that I find help in rebuilding trust:

  1. Take the time to listen – Often we are very good at telling people information but we seldom sit down and listen.  By listening to others, we are given the opportunity to truly hear the concerns that they have and/or the situations that have led them to lose trust.  We are also able to clarify and to correct misconceptions or misinformation.
  2. Communicate effectively and often – It is key that the leadership clearly communicates decisions, actions, goals, and reasoning.  These should be communicated in a variety of ways and should happen more often than we even think the need is there.  If communication does not occur, it can give the perception that something is purposely being hidden.
  3. Encourage questions – Even when we communicate effectively and often, people may still have questions.  If we ignore the questions or give the appearance that questions are a nuisance, then people shut down and often anger builds.  It also again gives the perception that something is being hidden or that there are hidden motives.
  4. Be consistent – One thing that disintegrates trust is when the leadership is not consistent in their behaviors.  People begin to feel they have no way of anticipate what types of responses or what directions may be coming their direction.  When they feel this, they will lose trust in what they are being told.  They will also become frustrated because of the confusion that exists with constant changes.  Sometimes directions need to be changed but if this is the case, communicate the change and the reason for the change.  People can accept change if it is not all the time and if they are given a rationale for the change.

This list is far from being exhaustive.  This work of rebuilding trust is also very difficult and will take time.  However, this is vital to the health of a group.  If there is not trust, then there will be bickering.  If there is not trust, then there will a lost of momentum among the group.  If there is not trust, then there will be anger, resentment, and rash decisions.

Digital Communication   Leave a comment

A wink is a type of gesture.

A wink is a type of gesture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Like everything in our world, there are pluses and minuses to the technology that allows us to communicate digitally.  Since we all know that part of communication includes a variety of non-verbal cues, communication that does not allow for those cues can be filled with pitfalls.  In an article which I recently read from The Atlantic, there was a great discussion regarding the impact of digital communication on our lives and language.  One of the points which the author made in the article was that digital communication can lead to a variety of misunderstandings.  These misunderstandings stem from different aspects of the communication.


First, since the receiver of the communication cannot see the facial expressions of the person communicating, it can be hard to determine the mood of the person.  Is the communicator in a good mood and therefore the comments are intended to be humorous?  Is the communicator angry and the words should be understood as an expression of anger?  Is the communicator tired, or stressed, or confused?  All of these can be difficult to determine if you are not able to see the facial expressions and the posture of the communicator.


Second issue involves the receiver.  Just as mood can impact the communication from the communicator’s position, mood can impact how the message is received.  If I am in a negative mood, I might respond negatively to  even the most benign comment.  Also, if I am preoccupied mentally, I can easily misread or misunderstand the message.


Digital communication also eliminates fluctuations in the tone of voice of the communicator.  The sound cues that help us to interpret what is trying to be communicated are not there.  Much like the impact of the absence of facial and body cues, the absence of audio cues makes it very difficult to understand the tenor of the message.


The article from The Atlantic which I read, pointed out that the invention of emoticons was precipitated by these struggles in digital communication.  The emoticon is supposed to help to provide those non-verbal and audio cues which will assist the receiver of the message in interpreting the message.  The problem is that not a lot of people use the emoticons except in text messages or when tweeting.  Most people do not include them in emails, especially not ones of a professional or work-related nature.  So those “helps” do not exist and leave open great possibilities of misinterpretation.


All of this reminds me of the importance of one of the chief rules of communication — seek clarification, restate what you perceive is being communicated, and then seek clarification again.


Speak My Language   1 comment



One of the pitfalls that many organizations and leaders encounter is that they forget they have to speak the language of the people.  It is very easy when you are part of organization to fall into using your own lingo and endless number of acronyms.  If another person is part of the organization then they understand completely what you are communicating but if the person is an outsider than the communication falls apart.  The connection is then lost outside the organization so if you are in business, you lose a sell; if you are a nonprofit organization, you lose a potential new member.  There is nothing that is more frustrating than people talking and you cannot understand a word that is being said.




As a believer, this coming Sunday is an important Sunday in the Christian calendar.  This Sunday is Pentecost, the celebration of the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the personal lives of believers and the launch of what would be come known as the Church.  So I was reading this week about how that event was recorded in the Bible.  The portion of the passage that stuck in my mind this morning was:




All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”  (Acts 2:4-12, NIV)


For me, it means the Lord got what I am discussing in this post.  The Lord understood that it was important for the message to be shared in the language the people understood.  This is a vital lesson for leaders and organizations.




If we are not speaking in the language of the people, then our message will not be received.  If people do not understand us, then they will become frustrated and ignore us.  After all, don’t we all want others to speak our language?



Language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Communication   1 comment


Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)


One of the most important, yet most difficult, aspects of relationships is communication.  It does not matter what kind of relationship we are talking about whether it is a work relationship, a family relationship, a neighbor relationship, or even our relationship of faith, communication is the glue that helps hold the relationship together.


There are so many aspects to communication that it can become very complicated.  A person has to be mindful of the frequency of communication, the means of communication, the words used in the communication, how the hearer may receive the communication, clarity in the communication, and the timing of the communication to just name a few factors.  It is no wonder that there is miscommunication, inaccurate assumptions and judgments.  This may be one of the causes of communication break down because people do not want to put the time or energy into creating positive communication.


Yet, without communication, there really cannot be a relationship.  So this is a skill that it is vital to develop in our lives and to continue to work upon.  The receiver of the communication, whether it is verbal or written (even texts), must seek clarification if they interpret what is being said as a negative.  Sometimes there is a need to communicate negative bits of information but often items are misunderstood as negative when that was not the intention.  The lines of communication need to be open as much as possible.  The frequency of communication between individuals must be as much as necessary to keep the relationship healthy based on the type of relationship.


Whenever a relationship is in trouble, I often find that communication has broken down in some fashion.  So to keep our relationships healthy, we must master the importance of communication and the skills necessary to generate positive communication.  This includes our relationship with the Lord.



A Tweeting Pope   Leave a comment

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Well friends, I hope that you have not missed the big news…. Pope Benedict XVI is now on Twitter and will be sending tweets beginning on Monday, December 12.  If you choose to follow him, you will find him at @Pontifex.  As I have contemplated this news this week, I was reminded of something a Roman Catholic priest who was a friend of mine once said to me… “Remember, the Roman Catholic Church is like a dinosaur, it is very big and moves very slowly.”  I would have to say that this is one example that contradicts that statement.  I am sure that there are many denominational leaders, clergy, and church leaders who still do not even have a Twitter account and have no clue what Twitter is all about.

All of this has caused me to ponder the relatively slow movement of churches to adapt to the events of the world around them.  Most who defend against this critique of the church say that this is due to the understanding that the church should not conform to the world but be transforming to the world.  While I agree that the culture should not define the church since it is the Lord alone who defines the world, I do believe the argument for avoiding such things as social media is more of a cop-out.  I believe it is more a fear of doing something different or not knowing how to go about doing something new.  What seems clear to me is that throughout the life of the early church, the believers took aspects of the world around them and used those aspects to communicate the message of Christ.  Jesus, himself, set this example when he would tell stories using parts of life which the people were familiar with to communicate the truths of God.  So if the people are using social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and such, to communicate with one another, then the church should use those same methods to communicate the message of Christ to the world.  If the church ignores this means of communication, then it is missing the opportunity to be part of the dialogue of millions of individuals.  If the church is not part of the dialogue, then the message of Christ is not communicated which is one of the chief ends of the church.

I also do not believe that this truth is related to the church alone.  If leaders in organizations and companies do not use the methods of communication that the people are using, then they are missing out on opportunities as well.  If a company does not have a website, then hundreds of potential customers will not be aware of its existence.  Social media can provide an excellent avenue to get your message before millions of people and is a lot less expensive than traditional media such as newspaper ads, television spots, or mailers.  It also allows for frequent and timely communication.

So I believe that Pope Benedict, or at least someone in his Vatican office, has come to understand this important reality.  While I may not agree with what the Pope communicates or all of his understandings of the Bible, I do applaud him for entering this very important dialogue that is occurring with 140 or less characters of tweet.  I will also start following him so I at least know what he is saying and make my determination of what I agree with and where I disagree with him.