When you think of communication, what comes to mind? Dictionary.com defines communication as the interchange of thoughts through speaking, writing, or signs, but what do most managers think of as powerful and effective communication?
Far too often, communication can more accurately be viewed as the imparting of information or data in a unidirectional manner. The most important aspect of communication is simply getting your point across and making sure that people understand what it is you want them to do.
The Interchange of Ideas and Concepts
The greatest communicators are interested in the interchange of ideas, thoughts, and concepts. While it is obvious that conveying a sense of direction and purpose is extremely important in leadership, it is not the foundation of powerful and effective communications.
Great leadership accepts and actually requires the interchange of thoughts. Interchange is the process of give and take. No one individual has been endowed with endless wisdom, no matter how great they are. As Zenger & Folkman put it, “One of the best ways to communicate is to get others to communicate”.
Our Personal Makeup Defines Us
True communication is the process of clarifying ideas, thoughts, and concepts effectively in conjunction with and through others. Powerful leaders understand that true communication is bidirectional. It is conveying your own knowledge while also receiving and assimilating information from others.
The art of true communication is born out of understanding that individuals receive and convey information through different psychological perceptions and processes. Our own psychological perceptions and processes can either assist and inhibit our ability to communicate effectively.
Have you ever been in an argument for any length of time only to finally realize you totally misunderstood what the other party was attempting to convey? If not, you are probably either single or in a very new relationship.
The Four Types of Personality
In his discussion on remarkable leaders, Eikenberry defines four individual personality types within many organizations. Eikenberry names these as “The Thinker, the Doer, the Feeler, and the Imaginer”. The author demonstrates that each of these individuals relates to information differently due to their own personality filters.
While identical data is initially conveyed to each of these personalities, each personality perception and assimilation is different. Their perceptions of the data can and often do change in some manner.
As the communication continues amongst the personality types, the information continues to change and evolve, much like the children’s game of telephone. When the last person speaks the message to the whole group, it usually has little to do with the message that was originally transmitted.
How might this evolution of information be more clearly understood? Suppose the leader of the organization conveys an important message to the four personality types discussed previously. How will this message be perceived by each and what will the individual outcomes for each personality type look like?
May see the information as something to be analyzed in order to ultimately act upon it once it has been thoroughly understood on every level.
May believe it is a directive to act on immediately. They may even have contempt for those concepts of wait-and-analyze. They may think waiting is a sign of the inability to take appropriate and decisive action.
Sees things as an opportunity to get others involved and to build relationships around the message. This individual is most interested in making sure that everyone gets the message. They see action as important, but different from the Doer’s understanding.
May perceive this as a mandate to think outside of the box. This individual may be ready to throw out all old ideas and start fresh with an idea that has nothing to do with the previous methodologies. This person might agree with the thinker the message needs thought, but would rather consider and act on new and potentially untried objectives.
Conflict is Not Always Bad
Which personality type is right here? All of them! The only realistic means by which any cooperative action may result from this potential group is through the interchange of ideas, thoughts, and concepts. Will conflict arise? Of course. Conflict is sure to surface.
Conflict in this arena, if properly controlled, will most likely produce an organizational direction that all of the personalities involved can buy into. The interchange of differing ideas, thoughts, and concepts can help to bring out the best in an organization.
The Art of Greatness
Powerful and effective communication is the ability to bring these differing ideas, thoughts, and concepts into a cohesive and understandable message that all can act upon. No one is necessarily right or wrong in the preceding discussions. Their perceptions and psychological makeup bias or color the understanding of each personality type.
If powerful and effective communication is the goal when dealing with human beings, then the interchange of ideas, thoughts, and concepts must be the vehicle to get there if the organization is to remain healthy.
1. Zenger, J., & Folkman,J. (2007). The handbook for leaders. New York: McGraw-Hill, P. 35
Eikenberry, K. (2007). Remarkable leadership. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. P. 66
How Do You Use Effective Communication as a Leader?
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