Changing Communication helps Change Happen

Posted: May 6, 2014 in Change, Relationship Building


We are always harping the mantra of communicate, communicate, communicate. You can’t communicate too much is what we say. Just keep getting the word out there.

But what I like to follow that with is “Know your audience or lose your audience.”  If your audience tunes you out, you’ll get nowhere.

So you need to know your audience. You need to know how they communicate. Within any given project  there will be different communication  styles or preferences.  You need to be nimble and flexible in your communication style. And sometimes you need to know the difference between how they tell you to communicate with them and what will really reach them.  Understanding the vernacular is what I would call it.

Pay attention to how the members within different groupings communicate out. Essentially, how do the locals communicate with each other? The vernacular. Incorporating elements from their style can make it more familiar, easier to digest.

This is not to say that you need to give up your preferred style altogether but be aware your job is to communicate not win a Pulitzer. Know your audience.

Gauge their level of sophistication. Gauge their depth of knowledge. Gauge their awareness of the nomenclature.

Fancy Powerpoints with big words and big concepts is good for your colleagues and upper management but not may not work so well on the project team.  That’s not to say the project team won’t understand but they may be turned off by what they consider to be consultantese and ivory tower BS. Your job is to communicate with them, not impress them. They’ll be more impressed if you talk to them on an equal footing. Throw your template out the window. Ask your self, How would they communicate?

To know your audience you’re going to have to spend some time communicating with them, hanging out with them, testing the waters, drinking the Kool Aid. No wait. Scratch that. Do not drink the Kool Aid.

Oh, that reminds me of another trick. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Dare to be irreverent. Dare to show that you’re human. People like humans. We want change to be normal and comfortable and yet we end up sounding like robots. Don’t sound like a robot. Sound like a human. You are human, aren’t you?

So what if this kind of communication is not your strong point? Writing or speaking publicly is not your thing. That’s OK. Don’t panic.

Pair with someone who has these skills. Whether it is a fellow change agent or an internal team member. Find the person who can help you. It’s like using a translator. There’s nothing wrong with using a translator. I’ve translated for a lot of people. It can be a good partnership. Learn from your partner.

But I’m not letting you off the hook that easy. You still need to work on communications. Especially paying attention to how other people communicate. It can tell you a great deal. Just take it slow. Make it a point to be more aware of how people communicate. It’s worth it.

Here’s a good article on writing a speech. It makes come good point about tailoring your message to your audience.  Take a look.


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