October 18, 2010

Making the Communication Connection

Last week I had the privilege of speaking during a half day session at the second largest human resource conference in the nation, HR Southwest. The session was for human resource professionals who wanted to connect on a strategic basis. It is rare that people can be successful in organizations without the ability to partner with other functions. For partnering to be effective you need to make the communication connection.
To demonstrate the power of communication and the barriers that can interfere with communication, we started the session with an activity called Zoom. Every person has a picture which they cannot show to others in the session. The goal is to form a line telling a story with the pictures. As the name implies, each picture “zooms out” a little further from the scene before it. The story starts with a picture of a rooster, then a picture of a window looking out at the rooster and so on all the way to a picture of the Earth from space.
Here are a few lessons we can learn from the Zoom activity to make the communication connection:
· Understand Everyone Has a Different Viewpoint - We look at the organization through a filter of our department and position. The “picture” we carry with us in our mind is of what we see which seems so clear to us. Our view of the situation is so familiar to us that it is difficult to understand that other people from different functions or departments do not see what we see every day.
· Describe What You “See” from Your Point of View – We need to describe what we see in detail because we may have the “missing piece” that would solve workplace issues. This is more challenging than you might first believe. What we see is so clear to us that we forget people might need more information because they do not share the same experiences every day.
· Ask Questions and Listen – The other side of making the communication connection is to understand the “picture” that others have in their mind. This takes probing skills to encourage others to give us details we need and listening skills to truly focus on what the other person is saying. This is particularly challenging if we do not have experience looking at the situation from another point of view. Challenging but definitely achievable with persistence and patience.
· Make the Connection – Now that you understand everyone else’s point of view and you have clearly articulated your view of the situation, it is time to combine concepts so they form a connection. Ask: “What do we see on common?” “How do our viewpoints differ?” “Does anyone have the missing piece to solve this workplace problem?”
To make the communication connection takes listening and clear communication skills. Mastering both will make you a sought after strategic partner in your organization because you will be known as someone who can reach past your own perspective and see things from a variety of other points of view.

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