From time to time there seems to be a flurry of studies and surveys on effective
communication in the workplace. As a communication specialist, I'm always eager to
read these studies, but am often disappointed with what I see. That's because they
all seem to be about communication strategy.
? We must put in place strategies to get our message out to our various publics.
? We must have a communication strategy so that our image and reputation will be
disseminated in the way we want it.
It all sounds so one-sided, and even worse, so one-dimensional.
According to my Oxford Dictionary, "strategy" is a military term defined as
"generalship, the art of war; management of an army or armies in a campaign; art of
so moving or disposing troops or ships as to impose upon the enemy the place and
time and conditions for fighting preferred by oneself."
That's all very well as far as it goes, but there are two problems. First, if your
soldiers don't have the necessary skills to move the army along, they will never
reach the strategic position in the first place. Second, if they don't have the
appropriate fighting skills, they won't know what to do once they are in position.
In order to make use of a strategy, you need the other half of the equation: tactics.
The same dictionary defines "tactics" as "the art of disposing military or naval forces
in actual contact with the enemy". In other words, once your strategy is in place, you
must use tactics that will convert your plan into results.
In today's complex, many-faceted workplace, too many laudable communication
strategies fail, or at least achieve limited success, because of lack of attention to
tactics. By tactics, I mean the way we use applied communication every day to get
the work done. As I often tell my audiences, this is not about a system-it's about
the skills of those using the system. If the soldiers are not trained in the skills they
need to get to the place of engagement as well as to fight the battle, then where is
the value of a strategy?
In workplace terms, if employees at all levels don't have the skills to transfer
information through presentations, through person-to-person discussion at
meetings, through articulate discussion with the media, through the written word in
all its forms, to interact with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders-then
even the most ambitious strategy is doomed to failure from the start.
Effective workplace communication takes two components: the will and the skill-
and one is of no use without the other. Your sales force may be very willing to sell
your products, but if they haven't been given the necessary skills they'll starve.
Newly promoted, enthusiastic young managers may well have the will to excel in
their new responsibilities, but without the necessary training how will they have the
skill to run effective meetings, motivate their people or lead winning teams?
Soldiers must be trained to carry out military tactics; employees must be trained to
communicate effectively in all workplace interactions.
This is why applied communication is "The Hidden Profit Center". Find those places
in your organization where communication is breaking down, and take a close look
at what that costs in monetary terms. Identify the missing skills and supply the
training necessary to provide them. After a predetermined length of time, quantify
the savings in time, opportunity and people: that's your Hidden Profit Center, and
you'll be amazed at how enormous it can be.
? 2005 Helen Wilkie All Rights Reserved
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Helen Wilkie is a professional speaker, consultant and author who helps companies
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