Leadership requires a bit of reiteration, once the vision is determined, you have to preach it relentlessly…
At one time or another in our life, most of us have had the opportunity to play the “telephone game“. For those of you who don’t know how, the telephone game begins with a group of friends or people standing in a line or a circle. A person on one end starts the game by whispering a word or phrase into the ear of the person next to them. That person will then whisper that same word or phrase on to the person next to them, and so on, and so on.
Until they reach the end of the line…
At which time, that last person shouts out the word or phrase that has been passed down the line. Which is what makes the game both fun and interesting, nine times out of ten what is repeated at the end is not the word or phrase that started at the beginning.
Unfortunately, the telephone game often mirrors the communication strategy incorporated within many of our organizations.
Many leaders overestimate the effectiveness of their communication, often at their own peril. Very seldom do leaders cascade communication down and through an organization, saturating it thoroughly. Most communication comes down less like a cascading waterfall and more like intermittent showers.
When leaders assume communication has occurred, they risk frustration, missteps, misalignment, and chaos within their organization.
Not only does communication have to cascade, flow and thoroughly saturate the organization, the communication and the message has to be consistent. When communication plays out like the telephone game, it does little to align the organization effectively. Poor communication can be just as destructive as little or no communication. Often causing chaos and confusion throughout.
For consistent and effective communication to occur, leaders have to find a way to get the whole system in the room.
It is a leaders responsibility to make sure that communication flows through an organization, as if everyone was there in the room, hearing the same, consistent message. To do this, requires a high level of reiteration.
It takes a lot of time, labor and dedicated effort.
It also requires a leader to be creative, to utilize a variety of tools, methods and arenas to ensure that communication flows effectively throughout the organization. And not only from the leader but, to and from.
Very often, the telephone game can be played in much the same manner back to the leader.
Communication can never be a one way process, if it is to be effective for the organization as a whole. A leader has to work to not only make sure communication cascades down and out, but that it also flows back. Unfortunately, most communication back to a leader looks similar to salmon swimming upstream. Very few messages make it to their intended destination.
Communication can create comfort, when it envelops and blankets the organization, or it can create chaos and confusion when it is erratic and left to chance. Great leaders never leave communication to chance or pass on an opportunity to reiterate the message. They understand that communication is the heartbeat and lifeblood of the organization.
“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
In my recent experience it seems that lack of communication can do the most damage in a staff that are the most passionate and committed. When you have people truly invested and passionate about the direction the school is heading and then only to ultimately feel undervalued because they are not involved or informed about changes or decisions, these people will find somewhere else to be or lose faith in leadership.
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