Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - July 26, 2017


Everybody I talk to thinks communication is important. Generally, the managers I meet in my training and consulting work value communication, and they often take some pride in their own efforts.

They tell me how they develop consistent messages about how things should be done. They tell me how they deliver those messages repeatedly, in staff meetings, in memos, in guidelines and other official documents.

And then they tell me how frustrated they are that all those messages do not have a greater impact on practices at the front lines.

So then they redouble their efforts. They speak more forcefully at staff meetings. They bury their staff in e-mails and memos. They highlight policy and procedures.

Basically, they get louder. It is a little like the tourist in, say, France or Germany who only speaks English, and who thinks that speaking slowly and loudly will make them understood.

The problem is that it is all too easy to focus on sending out your message, and to pay too little attention to the receiving end of things. It is human nature, perhaps, to equate "communicate" with "talk", when "communication" is an act of two parties, the talker and the listener.

Imagine you had an important message and you built a powerful radio tower so you could broadcast your message via radio waves far and wide. What impact would that have?

That depends on several conditions. The message would be available to everyone, but it would only be received by a subset of people who, 1) owned a radio, 2) had it turned on, and 3) had it tuned to the right frequency.

Your leadership not only needs to craft the right messages, they need to do the work to create a receptive environment, to help the front lines "tune" to the right frequency.

Do location or regional managers "broadcast" competing messages to their own staff? That kind of interference can seriously disrupt your signal.

Do staff get the training and information that provides context for better reception? Credit roles are easier to understand when they are discussed as part of the larger credit process. Better decisions about individual transactions come from understanding their impact on the larger credit portfolio.

Is giving feedback a safe activity in your organization? If credit staff feel that they will be punished or discouraged when they share their ideas about messages from management, they may not try very hard to listen.

Are frontline staff held accountable for "receiving" the message in a way that is reflected in actual practices? You can broadcast a forceful message all day, every day, about the need to follow policy. But then if exceptions are granted for just about everything, what's the point of listening?

Effective communication can give you the edge that earns you a win in your marketplace. Just make sure you cultivate both the sending and receiving of key internal messages that will lead your institution to success.