Monday, April 4, 2011

Communicating Through the Chaos

We all struggle with communication at our core. While most of us may struggle with top down communication; we all tend to struggle with male to female communication. Hans Finzel in chapter 7 of his book The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make tells us of the struggles that come when communication breaks down. While most of us training to be pastors and leaders think we communicate effectively and well, Finzel says, “We never communicate enough, and we usually communicate way less than we think we do.” (Finzel 2007, 149) I personally struggle in this area with my wife; I can talk a hole in her head sometimes and still not communicate what I wanted her to hear.

In reading chapter seven of Finzels book, another very important point he makes is that the size of the company and the way communication takes place is vital. When you are smaller you can make major decisions on the fly and in informal ways; but as you grow and become larger your communication must become more formal. Finzel says, “Communication chaos begins when small groups start getting larger.” (Finzel 2007, 131) You may have been doing great conveying your thoughts in a smaller setting, but, “That which had worked so well informally had to be formalized.” (Finzel 2007, 133) Finzel explains that with the more people involved you need to make sure everyone is kept up-to-date with any changes that involve them.

Finzel also warns us about the dangers of leaving things vague. If all you do is make a statement in passing the chance of confusion becomes greater. So, “Sooner or later you must put your plans down in writing and spell out your direction clearly. That doesn’t mean that the plans won’t change, but it does mean that everyone knows the rules of the game.” (Finzel 2007, 135) One thing every leader needs to make sure they cultivate is the ability to listen, Finzel points out, “Nothing stops the progress of an organization more quickly than leaders failing to listen.” (Finzel 2007, 140)

Both Finzel and Robbins express the importance of listening and the difference it can make. Sometimes we can just be hearing what the person has to say, while trying to formulate what we are going to say next. That makes us bad listeners; we are no longer being active in the conversation. We should become active listeners, “As an active listener, you try to understand what the speaker wants to communicate rather than what you want to understand.” (Robbins 2008, 110) Robbins also gives eight types to be better listeners (Make eye contact; exhibit affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions; avoid distracting actions or gestures; ask questions; paraphrase; avoid interrupting the speaker; don’t over talk, and lastly make smooth transitions between the roles of speaker and listener.).

Robbins in Truth 29 points out that there is certain information that needs to be conveyed in specific manners. He refers to the way the message is relayed as richness meaning, some “(1) handle multiple cue simultaneously, (2) facilitate rapid feedback, and (3) be very personal.” (Robbins 2008, 114) He tells us that for more routine messages we can choose things that are less rich in communication such as e-mail. But for the more important things you would do better using richer methods such as face-to-face.

In Truth 31 Robbins ties into where I initially started that the make-up of men and women have us communicating differently. He does not say that it is a bad thing it is just a difference in our being. He says that women generally speak for understanding and men speak to show our status. As men we like to feel in control so when a woman tells us of a problem we want to fix it, while she is just looking for some form of affirmation. So he summarizes it like this, “Mutual understanding is symmetrical, but giving advice is asymmetrical—it sets up the advice giver as more knowledgeable and more in control. This contributes to distancing men and women in their efforts to communicate.” (Robbins 2008, 122)

Lastly Robbins brings it home in Truth 32, the old adage that actions speak louder than words. He digs into showing us that we can say one thing and then do another and damage our credibility with those around us. Just like as a parent I do not like telling my two boys do as I say not as I do because it sends the wrong message. Robbins reinforces that sentiment by saying, “It’s hard for employees to trust a manager who says one thing but does another.” (Robbins 2008, 127) If we want to be an effective leader anywhere we must be willing to do what we say we are going to do. A rule I live by is don’t make a promise you are not sure you can keep. Because in breaking promises you set yourself up to say one thing and end up doing another.

I hope these things have helped and if there is more I can do please feel free to ask.


Finzel, Hans. The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2007.

Robbins, Stephen P. The Truth About Managing People. Upper Saddle River: FT Press, 2008.

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