Communication Gets a Bad Rap (communication series #1)

“Al, you don’t communicate!” Are you kidding? At the time we were the only missions organization in the world that had a weekly TV program, a periodical magazine, and an extensive website, reporting on anything and everything we could think of. We still communicate profusely. There’s nothing that happens that you can’t find out about in detail, within hours of when it happens, if you follow us on social media. But that doesn’t count as communication in the mind of someone who requires personal messages. A ‘lack of communication’ is mostly a vision problem, a relationship problem, not just a communication problem.

Here’s Communication Series podcast #1 with Becky and Al:


The greatest perceived weakness in most organizations is ‘a lack of communication’. As a leader, it often feels like the demand for perfect communication is unattainable and anything less is inexcusable – as though you get one try at communication and a fail is terminal. But communication is a living, on-going opportunity.

A ‘lack of communication’ is a catch-all for the disgruntled, just accuse them of not communicating and the blame is in their court. But communication is a two-sided responsibility.

When someone says, “I’m on a need to know basis,” or “that information is above my pay grade,” they are measuring their importance to you by what you make them privy to. They are actually gossipers.

“Why didn’t I know about this sooner?” And no matter how soon you tell them, it won’t make them feel like they are in control.

I’ve never met a person who couldn’t communicate what they want you to know so I don’t buy the poor communication complaints, they are mostly a smokescreen for a lack of relationship and trust.

Communicating details won’t solve anything until you communicate the vision & culture, followed by the purpose & plan.

Three levels of Communication

1. The vision and culture- these are the foundations, why we are doing what we do. Our vision and culture are written everywhere, they are part of the decor, part of our vocabulary, our tribe’s identity.
  • Effective communication within a team cannot take place where the vision is lacking or unclear.
  • The vision must be communicated from above, at the peer level and from below – everyone is responsible.
  • When there is a feeling of a lack of communication, start with the vision. Team members who never have enough details are most often lacking in understanding of the vision, or it could be that they just don’t agree with the vision.
  • When team members are clear in their personal mandate, their own role and responsibility in the vision, their expectations in matters of communication become more accurate.

2. The purposes and plans – these are the big picture, what we are doing about our vision. We talk about these weekly, intentionally, assess and measure them. These are staff meetings, team meetings, creative sessions, and a series of special meetings we do to prepare for special events.

3. The daily details- how we are breaking down the tasks, measuring and following up – how we are getting the work done. This is where we develop and rely on systems of communication. They need to be current, consistent, inclusive, available, and retrievable. We won’t succeed at this level until the Vision level and Plans level are effectively communicated.


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