02 We have the technology
I’m on a train. But, in a reversal of apparently normal social behaviour, I’m not yelling about it down a mobile phone.
Instead, as we meander through the Suffolk countryside this morning – all verdant meadows and sun-dappled streams – I’m listening to an on-board announcement.
It is completely unintelligible. Crackle. White noise. Crackle. Perhaps the announcement is intended to enhance our Health and Safety. Perhaps it wishes to advise us of an unexpected stop, alight here for the Fields of Elysium. Perhaps the hot and cold buffet snacks, for this day only, have been bussed in by Gordon Ramsay.
Regardless of the message intended, the fractured intercom expresses pretty well what’s wrong with most of our attempts to communicate meaningfully with other people.
Oh, wait a minute. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, isn’t it?
You think so? Well, picture the guard (sorry, let me capitalise that) Train Manager tapping the intercom. He knows it’s bust, but he proceeds anyway. Does he care if he’s getting his message across? He has a whole other set of Key Performance Indicators to honour.
And how this relates to business is…?
Well, ask yourself: how often do we assess how well we’re communicating? Take your average meeting. Full of people yammering away, loving the sound of their own voices, others drifting in and out of consciousness. And, like our friend on the train, very few bothering to check if they’re actually making sense to anyone else.
A client asked me the other day for a single sentence on why communication fails. Simple. It fails when you fail to monitor the degree to which your listeners are or aren’t getting what you say.
Or, in this case, when you’re on the 08.00 to Ipswich.
business messages people remember
NEXT FRIDAY 8 MAY 09
WHITE VAN MAN AND HIS TEACHINGS