“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Maybe it’s my age showing, maybe it’s my desire for clarity, and maybe it is a simple as my brain fully understands what you are supposed to know. In other words, I’ve thought that thought so many times that I’m sure I’ve said it out loud and I’m sure you’ve heard it. But you are doing anything about it. So confusing.

How many times have you experienced frustration over communication? It’s like a highway where my car is cruising along at 60, and so is yours. We are headed to our destinations, different ones because our days entail different tasks. We pass each other in a very few seconds on the road, barely enough to recognize that we know each other. And, in the nanosecond we both have expectations. On the road we expect we will stay in our own lanes, and to be respectful to indicate the passing, not staying in each other’s blind spots, right?

Communication has basic rules as well. Some are called social graces – like please and thank you. Others are workplace driven – deferring to positions of authority in a meeting, calendaring meetings and deadlines and including others who are impacted, and responding to clients within an established timeline.

The harder parts of communication are unsaid. How many times are you a participant in a strategic planning process that only becomes common knowledge after months or longer of meetings and retreats? How about office relocation projects or tenant improvement projects? The communication frequency and content is often regulated by a project lead, limiting the knowledge of those impacted the most – your end users, your front line, your first responders to clients.

Once you think about this through a new lens you see the damage that control and command of communication can cause, most importantly, damage to trust. I don’t have to love everyone I work with (although isn’t that lovely to consider?), but to maximize profit I do have to trust them. The success of my organization depends on a strong foundation, and those pillars are built with every communication.

How does communication flow in your firm? What information do you hold that others would benefit from knowing? How can you communicate with your people in a way that honors the necessity of confidentiality and also provides transparency?

I’m headed out to the car. I’ll see you on the road.