Communication – Never take it for granted

When I took up this post I set out a number of personal priorities.

One of these was to improve communication within the department at all levels. I tried to summarise some of the various elements of that developing strategy back in January.

In the last week there have been three separate instances of people questioning how effective our communication actually is within Education in East Lothian.

One of the things I’ve learned in my career is never to think that communication is “sorted” or to ignore anyone who suggests that communication isn’t working.  Whether or not communication is effective lies in the eye – or should that read ear – of the beholder.  It’s not for management to say “we’ve done all we can, if people don’t get it then that’s their fault.”

I reckon there is a natural timespan in any organisation before communication needs to be formally revisited – even if everything seems to be fine.  That timespan lies somewhere around 12 – 18 months.  Such a review need not result in any action having to be taken – just that we perform a “health check”.

One of the best bits of leadership advice I got from a former boss was “the moment you start to relax and think that everything is going well is the moment to look over your shoulder”. Not that I’m recommending paranoia, rather that  communication issues- unless they are fundamentally systemic – are just part of  the reality of organisational life.

The challenge for leaders is not to take these issues personally but to recognise that such concerns are a natural phenomenon – and not to become defensive – or worse still – offensive. 

3 thoughts on “Communication – Never take it for granted

  1. “A time span of 12-18 months…”

    So how many members of staff leave, move job or position in East Lothian education in this time span? Do they have to wait up to 18 months to realise they aren’t on a mailing list or in the phonebook?

    There are numerous mechanisms that can be employed to ensure the skeleton of communications is effective within an organisation. These are what Shannon described as the channels and they do not guarantee the message will be received. In modern communication as seen with the web and social software “content is King” if I’m not interested in what you have to say I won’t hear it regardless of the channels of communication.

    In summary you should ensure that you have effective channels of communication (formal & informal) and that the content is of interest to those receiving the information.

    Another point that comes out of Shannon’s Information Theory is that “noise” can interfere with the message transmitted across the channel. This noise can only ever be minimised it can never be removed. So in some situations it is out with the managements control to ensure the message is received effectively.

    So it is fair to say: “we’ve done all we can to get the message to you.” The receiver has to be listening for the message to get through!

  2. Kenneth

    Communication is something which must be regularly evaluated – hence our communication group which meets on a termly basis. However – the need for a formal in-depth review is something different.

    I like the ideas of channels and will investigate this further.



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