Culture is Communication Communication is conversation

The GEMCO culture is the daily life of employees where there are unspoken rules and unspoken expectations about what should and should not be done, and is shaped by how people communicate or do not communicate.

If employees -- the number one corporate asset -- feel that they are being engaged and can express themselves, everything from productivity to innovation benefits. Work becomes an opportunity to learn, enjoy, contribute, and grow -- and GEMCO continues to build a culture of communication.

If communication is devalued, employees will show up at work merely to do their jobs, and GEMCO will have a culture of information not communication.

Almost any management team will tell you that poor communication is the organization’s number one concern, even higher than sales, profits, and security risks. What are the signs of poor communication?

  • Information flows only when management has something to say.
  • The amount and quality of information is limited, unsatisfying, protected, unrelated to jobs, unsuccessful in promoting loyalty and productivity, and mostly ignored by employees.
  • Employees are not encouraged to express their views nor are they trusted with information.
  • Conversations consist of superiors telling and employees hearing.
  • Employees fill the information gaps with misinformation and rumors..

Poor communication erodes an organization.

  • It devalues GEMCO's most important asset: people.
  • The message to employees is that they are not important enough or trusted enough to know what is going on.
  • Employees model their communication based on what they experience at GEMCO.
  • Loyalty becomes a requirement; passion becomes an obligation.
  • When people are not valued, they seek it elsewhere.
  • Employees protect information as if it is money; silos develop.
  • Poor communication internally creates poor communication externally
  • It discourages employees from being ambassadors externally.
  • Prospects hear complaints and see no inspiration
  • It opens the door for misinformation and rumors.
  • To resolve poor communication, every so often there is a burst of over-information: that is, communicating lots of information to everyone even if they don’t need to know.
  • Emails multiply beyond control.
  • No one feels comfortable raising an idea that might be put down for lack of information.
  • Communicating ideas is not rewarded.
  • Compliance and reliance rule out deviation and independent thinking.

Poor communication creates inefficiencies that are costly.

  • People seem to waste a lot of time looking for information and interrupting others to get it.
  • Decisions get delayed because no one knows the answer or is afraid to volunteer information
  • Lack of knowing leads to unnecessary meetings that produce no results because they are opinions not based on facts and that leads to even more meetings.
  • Poor communication discourages innovation.
  • Decisions get delayed because no one knows the answer or is afraid to volunteer information

What a mess, huh? But what exactly is communication?

Here are two different styles of communication

One is predictable and informing; the other informal and engaging.

In American churches where most of the worshippers are white people like me, the clergy leader stands on a platform above us and behind a podium. He talks for a set period of time, usually 20 minutes, while we, the audience, listen.

At the end, we tell the clergy leader how much we enjoyed his message. We then go to restaurants or home for a meal and forget much of what he said. And we don’t see the other people in the audience much, if at all, until the next church service and sermon.

In American churches where all or mostly all of the worshippers are African-Americans, the religious leader is usually standing just slightly above the audience. He talks like the white clergy man. But there are big differences.

The black leader walks around on the stage as he delivers his message. He not only walks, but he often comes down into the audience and gets close to individuals, even touching some on the head or shoulder. The longer he talks, the faster he moves and the more he moves his body, his voice changes. He starts calmly but after maybe eight minutes, he talks loudly at times, even shouting, and then real soft. He moves his hands to illustrate visually what he is saying.

And the audience, the worshippers, they respond to him as he talks. At first, they are somewhat constrained. They say, "yes" and mumble "hmm" and say "Amen." But after awhile, as the clergy leader gets more animated, they stand up, move around somewhat, and start talking: “I hear you, preacher;” “Talk to us, preacher.” The message lasts as long as the content requires and until there is a sense that everyone is worn out. Then they go home, and during the week see many of the others in the audience because they live close.

The American white clergy man is expected to talk and provide information in an appropriate way for a definite period of time. The African-American clergy man is expected to engage the audience and to talk until there is no more to talk about or to listen to from others.

The American white clergy man is an informer. The African-American clergy man is a communicator.

What’s my point? I got your attention. Now I want to change your attitude about communication. I want you to shift ...

  • from telling to talking
  • from starting from yourself to starting out from the other person
  • from informing to give and take
  • from dictating to asking
  • from controlling to exploring.

I want you to get what’s in your head and heart into the heads and hearts of others. I want you learn how ...

  • to pull out all the good ideas in your head and put them into words you speak to persuade your colleagues, your staff, your CEO
  • to put them into words that you can write in such a way that others know immediately and clearly what you are saying, and they know what you want to do or what they realize they should do.
I want you to create a culture of communication.

Understand it? Can you do it? Of course you can. Will you do it? You have to decide and act.

The only near-perfect form of communication is a conversation.

When do you communicate the best? When you are with your spouse, family members, and friends, right? Why is that?

  • It’s because you know generally what you want to say, but you don’t polish it beforehand because no one talks in polished ways.
  • You use words that the other person understands.
  • You adjust what you say according to how the other person responds, according to his level of interest.
  • You generally know the impression you have made and whether or not you informed and/or persuaded the other person.
Culture is communication. Communication is conversation.

Here are two examples of conversations, one wrong, one right. One is President George Bush, the other is Presidential candidate Bill Clinton, from a 1992 debate.

Created By
Richard Skaare

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