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Leading Ideas: Making Communication Work

“When it comes to improving performance, most organizations’ problems can be traced to their inability to think and talk together at critical moments.” — Paraphrased from William Isaacs’s book Dialogue, p.3 What passes as “communication” in most organizations is nothing more than people talking at each other. Firing different opinions around a room with little structure to productively move any action forward.

“When it comes to improving performance, most organizations’ problems can be traced to their inability to think and talk together at critical moments.” — Paraphrased from William Isaacs’s book Dialogue, p.3

What passes as “communication” in most organizations is nothing more than people talking at each other. Firing different opinions around a room with little structure to productively move any action forward. The conversation is dysfunctional — meaning that it doesn’t produce a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. Eventually, when a decision must be made, it’s often the person who has spoken the loudest, longest, or with the most conviction that wins — whether it was the best idea or not.

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Something to consider:

To vet truly great ideas, you’ve got to stress-test them with a group. An example is a process called “the gauntlet” that I developed with one of my clients. Once a good idea bubbles to the top of a conversation, each member of the team must do his/her best to put it through the ringer by pointing out weaknesses in a respectful yet rigorous manner. Everyone’s ideas are subjected to the gauntlet – no one gets a free pass. If the idea makes it through the process, everyone agrees to put their weight behind making it happen.

Something to try:

To develop better communication in your teams, use this basic checklist:
1. Respect others’ opinions.
2. Make sure everyone has a voice in key decisions.
3. Encourage members to suspend judgment in order for everyone to be heard.
4. Make it a standard practice that all ideas are up for scrutiny – and develop a process to ensure this happens.
5. When a decision is reached, put a specific, time-bound course of action in place.

Question: What structures do you put in place to ensure communication works in your organization?

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