The Lost Art of Communication

 John Ruh  Leadership

Todd J. Stukenberg
May 22, 2019

In the modern-day world, there are more vehicles and tools for human interconnection than could even be imagined just a generation ago. When I think of my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s, there were essentially 4 ways that people connected and communicated: face to face (in person), via a telephone system that consisted of a mess of wires, through the written (and printed) word, or unilaterally via radio or television broadcast. Today, I can think of at least 3 times as many options, most of which are fully interactive with visual and audio elements.

Has the proliferation of these tools made communication better? In some ways, yes. It is more immediate and available. However, these new and more robust vehicles have also brought to light the importance of the content and quality of that communication over just the availability or frequency. This is evidenced by the fact that anecdotally there seems to be more conflict, polarization and confusion than before.

This is particularly important when it comes to effectiveness in leadership. It’s not enough just to communicate as a leader, disseminating words via email, text or video conference. A leader must choose not just the right vehicle, but the right thoughts and translate them into the right words. Effective communication has a four “leg” foundation:

  1. It considers its audience and how they might perceive the intent of the message and where the audience is “at” in terms of its ability to process and understand.
  2. It is clear, concise and direct. Use of obscure terminology, poor grammar/word choices or meandering thoughts do more harm than good.
  3. It incorporates an element of nuanced and varied repetition to increase comprehension.
  4. It makes a summarized, strong concluding point that is the clear takeaway if nothing else is retained.

As leaders, we must consider our communication skills and approaches every day and in every engagement. It’s an absolutely critical capability for leaders in the modern world.