Friday, January 27, 2012

Are You Communicating Effectively? - Testing For Understanding

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch used to say the following about communication:

“You don’t get anywhere if you keep changing your ideas. The only way to change people’s minds is with consistency. Once you get the ideas, you keep refining and improving them; the more simply your idea is defined, the better it is. You communicate, you communicate, and then you communicate some more. Consistency, simplicity, and repetition is what it’s all about."

I think Welch is correct in emphasizing the need for consistency, simplicity, and repetition in their communications.   However, leaders need to take one additional step if they wish to communicate effectively.  Put simply, leaders need to test for understanding and alignment.  Did the troops understand my message?  How did they interpret the meaning of my statements?  Did they understand my intent?  Is everybody on the same page, or did people "hear" different messages?

In other words, leaders need to construct a strong feedback loop.  They have to circle back and make sure that people "heard" the same message that they intended to convey?   Many leaders fail to take that additional step.  As a result, confusion and misalignment persist despite the fact that leaders believe that they have communicated clearly, simply, and repeatedly.


Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Hi Professor Roberto, I'm a longtime software developer who formerly had no interest in "business-y" stuff. I started watching your Teaching Company video series because I wanted to improve my personal decision-making, but am learning a lot about how to help the development teams that I'm part of be more successful. I loved your comparisons of the Bay of Pigs with the Cuban Missile Crisis. I also thought you made an excellent point that the idea of a split between those with authoritative and lassaiz-faire leadership styles is a false dichotomy.

I look forward to watching the rest of the videos as well as reading you on this blog. As I've noticed some of the same Bay of Pigs tendencies on the teams I've been part of, any pointers to resources to learn how I might better help teams perform better (less groupthink, etc.) is most appreciated. Keep up the good work!

Michael Roberto said...

Gary, so glad you are enjoying the course!