Robert Kent, former dean of Harvard Business School has said, “In business, communication is everything.”
But in today’s world why is personal communication so important to business?  Well, it matters because any corporation, business or department is made up of people, and it is still a fact that people react much better to interaction with other people than they do to electronic or other impersonal communication processes.
The Harvard Business School has spent several decades researching the essential skills needed by managers and has consistently ranked communication skills as crucial. In any one typical working day, a manager will spend 75 to 80 percent of their time engaged in some form of written or oral communication.
Training in communication is often termed a “soft” skill; but in reality it is the communication within a department that provides the critical link between all the core functions. There are some very valid reasons to pay attention to the effectiveness of our communication.
Ineffective communication is very expensive
Again the research provided by the Harvard Business School sets out the problems:
  • Poor communication affects productivity.
  • It wastes time, effort and credibility.
  • It impacts on client/customer satisfaction
  • It leads to lack of trust between workers and management,
  • It impacts on relationships within the workforce causing stress.
  •  It is the basic cause of low morale within any company.

 The changing workplace environment and complexity makes effective communication even more important
The hierarchal organisational structure, with a control and command managerial system is a highly specialised workplace; one where immediate   action is needed in crisis situations – Police, Fire, Search & Rescue and of    course the Military are examples that come to mind.
More normal in today’s company structure is the flatter organisation, with a far greater emphasis on teams; a much more diverse workforce and wider responsibilities for the communication process.
A recent survey in USA (2010) of Fortune 1000 companies found that 83% use teams as their basic structure. Teams are all about communication. The collaboration that allows organisations to utilise the creative potential of a diverse workforce depends on effective communication.
Communication as a basis for Leadership
If leadership is all about getting things done, and is pro-active, then we will know that we need to communicate with our team, our clients and our superiors.  Therefore a large part of the responsibility of leadership is to communicate effectively.

Unfortunately research has indicated that most of what we communicate in the public sphere is usually ineffective; and that is because we misunderstand exactly what our communication processes are designed to do. Communication has two distinct roles to perform in our lives, the first is Task and Goal Orientated; the second is Relationship based.

Our styles of communication have developed over centuries as an outcome of the roles that each gender was assigned in the society of the time; and we do not have to go too far back to find examples of these very specific roles.  Even in the 1950’s the expectations were far different from today – then the proper ordering of society was:

Business Leadership Roles were filled mainly by men while Support and Nurturing was supplied by women.

Business communication became associated with men, who made the rules, set the agenda; created the culture and developed the style.

Trischel describes this style as Directive Communication – and a speaker using this style of communication will:
  • Emphasis the facts 
  • Support their ideas with logic and reason
  • Identify problems and may ignore their causes
  • Focus on actions taken or to be taken      
  • Value position and authority impacting on the importance of the information.
  • Seek to differentiate themselves from others in ideas and opinions
  •  Consider that dominance and control in communication is important
      This communication style is designed to make the individual stand out, by challenging others, being decisive, being competitive and being in control.  The style is action focused; goal orientated and is a very effective way to identify problems and to solve them.

As such it is a style of communication that corresponds to the Authoritarian style of leadership.  Concerned with command and control, it fits perfectly with a type of leadership that does not use consensus, is probably little concerned with group harmony – but is exclusively focused on achieving the goal, completing the task or is operating in critical situations.

It is not, however, as successful when the need is to build supportive networks and harmonious teams.  To achieve these objectives a much different approach to communication is required; we need one designed to maintain group harmony, to achieve consensus and enhance the self-respect and sense of self-worth of others.

Domestic communication became associated with women, who made the rules, set the agenda; created the culture and developed the style.

Trischel describes this style as Connective Communication where the speaker will:
  •  Describe the circumstances first; outlining the situation,          
  • Use shared experiences to build connection within the group.
  • Identify the causes or the symptoms then describes the problems
  • Respect  individual contributions to the discussion
  • Seek recognition by adding to other people’s ideas and opinions.
  • Consider that sharing in communication is important

       Because the aim is to create ‘harmonious’ relationships, those that use ‘Connective Communication’ try not to differentiate themselves from the rest of the group, and instead of opposing others ideas, will seek to add to them – and thereby often change them.  

      When unity is the goal, differences can be seen as being counterproductive, and therefore sharing experiences and emotions can help build the group cohesion which is so important to this style of communication.

It should now be obvious that the style of this communication is perfect to support the idea of Inclusive Leadership.  Seeking to create teamwork, to encourage consensus and to value individual input, we need a communication style that is designed to do just that. 

Understanding that there are two distinct Styles of Communication that are designed to create completely different outcomes is just as important as recognising the differing Styles of Leadership and when to use them. 

If we can change our leadership and communication style to suit the circumstances then we can enhance our effectiveness both as leaders and as communicators.

Michele @ Trischel

The information in this article is derived from the Trischel Workshop –  ‘Communication for Leaders’

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