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Connecting The Dots Between Communication, Inclusion And Talent

Connecting The Dots Between Communication, Inclusion And Talent

Communication equips us to collaborate towards shared goals. Done right, it extends team effort, making these efforts more effective as a whole than the sum of their parts. That’s the promise of communication at its finest. 

As it happens, this is also a high and lofty goal. We all know that communication isn’t perfect every time. It waxes and wanes. And there are many reasons for this.

Effective communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Some things get in the way of messaging, and it’s a great idea to address these things first.

Situational Factors

This is a hugely critical place to start from when we ask why communicating is so hard. Everyone enters the conversation from a different place. These differences affect what we hear when someone speaks. And the more aware we are of them, the easier it will be to dialogue. They include differences in culture, race, status, gender, orientation, personality, age, and even values. Every source of difference brings a degree of nuance to the communication process. And in reality, these differences play a role in how we perceive each other. It explains why (for example) discrimination is a lived experience for so many and not merely a theoretical abstraction. 

That said, it is possible to engage meaningfully, despite our differences. People do it in organisations every day, and it works. But how?

Getting Communication Right

Given the wealth of knowledge on the subject, you’d expect communication gaps to be a thing of the past. But here’s the thing about learning to communicate: it’s not the same as learning to use spreadsheets and finance models. Communication has more to do with having the right attitude and mindset. And for me, that mindset is best summed up in a phrase I first read over fifteen years ago. Here it is: 

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Dr Stephen R Covey

I like this philosophy on communication because it’s digestible. It addresses the subject at a high level, but it also translates at every other level. It’s a guiding compass and manual at the same time. Here’s why it works. 

When the other person feels understood, they don’t feel the need to keep presenting their case. The discussion moves in a productive direction. 

If you can think of a time when you observed a communication failure, I’m sure you’ll notice that the events didn’t hold up to this ideal.

I’ve been in meetings where I had to ask for room to finish a sentence multiple times. It’s exhausting having to work hard to express yourself in a conversation. In a perfect world, the other person would take on the role of drawing out and validating your message. When people adopt this thinking, it creates a culture of understanding, trust and empathy. At scale, this multiplies to become an inherently inclusive culture.

Unleashing Talent

Organisations that get this right are poised to win with talent. Not only is this true because people go to where they feel included and stay there. But also, research shows that employees do their best work in genuinely inclusive spaces. When employees feel included, they also feel the belonging and psychological safety that comes with it. Shields come down and collaboration catches on. By creating a safe environment, organisations unleash talent. 

See Also

So it would seem that winning with talent and winning in communication are premised on the same notion of inclusivity. 

Final Thoughts

There’s more to effective communication than disseminating information. That’s what memos are for. And that’s the easy part.

I can say from my experience that remarkable things happen when you bring an understanding of the other person into the conversation. It takes work, but it’s doable. 

I work in a role where I have to listen to people’s problems and offer solutions. I’m constantly listening for crucial hints to discover the exact pain points, and many things guide this discovery. They range from the inflexions in voice to the moments of pause where the right words are being sought. I also pay attention to the long breaths drawn in those quiet moments. If I get it right, I can paraphrase the issue in my own words while being true to their deepest concerns. What happens next is magical: they trust me, a complete stranger, to act for them. They then step back and let me lead the discussion.

So in my little sphere, I’m constantly reminded that a keen focus on inclusion, bringing the other person into the fold, is required to communicate effectively. 

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