Communication Modes – Content or Meta?

When talking to staff formally or informally, inisght into your communication mode is critical to getting the right outcomeEffective Communication is a topic that never goes away.  So………

A friend of mine has a beautiful house outside of Geelong. It sits on an acre, has an orchard and chooks in the backyard and started off life as a church. And it was while looking over this view and drinking wine on a hot day recently, that I had a major insight into management issues.

My friend, a lawyer that specialises in Corporate Governance, was talking about the different modes that a board can communicate to management in. Paraphrasing, they were:


Letting staff know you think they are doing a great job, or trying to motivate them.


Letting staff know of some options that they may want to look into.


Helping staff act in the way that you want them to act.


Making sure staff do exactly what you want.

This framework also works for senior management speaking to junior management, or junior management speaking to staff. Its not just a board level issue, its an issue throughout business and in fact anywhere there is a hierarchy, including inside families.

The number one problem he asserted was not so much, poor quality communication, but a misunderstanding of the mode of communication.

All too often you see staff members getting pissed off as they believe they are being ridden and have no flexibility, when in relaity they are just getting suggestions. Alternatively I see managers getting stressed about staff not taking direction.

Even when trained in active listening, its all to easy to focus on the content and the emotions around it

Communication Mode – Your Point of View Vs the Staff

A friend of mine has recently taken over a business unit of a large corporate, and in the absence of a clear, public instruction from above about the new arrangements, is now finding life difficult as his new staff members don’t actually see him as the boss. He’s just someone from head offices who is loaned in a couple of hours a week to help them improve themselves. Both he and his staff need to have clarity about exactly what mode he is communicating in.

What made this discussion on communication modes fascinating, was that the conversation occurred whilst we watched the chooks quickly sort out who was boss and the “pecking order”. No nonsense, quickly done, everybody happy.