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4 keys to authentic and effective team communication

Erik Gabrielson

11 January 2017

An important foundation for High Performance Communication is the Three Laws of Effective Dialog:

  • All people have purposes and concerns.
  • When people perceive you 
    as threatening, or unaware of, their purposes and concerns, they resist. This is waste.
  • When people perceive you are aware and sensitive to their purposes and concerns, they communicate and collaborate. This is value. 

Intellectually these are simple principles. However, the barriers to basing your actions on them are usually emotional. Overcoming these barriers requires a highe level of awareness and authenticity.

 The short story on authenticity is "tell the truth, it works". Operationally, it is not that simple. Whose truth is the truth? How do you know if what you are saying is true anyway? What about the politics of the workplace? What if people do not want to hear the truth? What if telling the truth gets you in trouble? What if telling the truth alienates the people you need to work with everyday? What if it feels uncomfortable and unfamiliar? What about all that?

In our experience, we have found four necessary ingredients in an environment of authentic communication:

1. A senior purpose that is more important than a personal habit and social comfort

High performance teams care far more about opportunity for improvement than they do about preserving a personal image of perfection. They also will not trade a chance for extraordinary achievement for a shallow, dishonest version of community.

Do you have a purpose that is worth the discomfort of open feedback? If yes, then write it down and keep it around. Refer to it when you are hearing difficult feedback. Remember, it is about fulfilling the purpose, not avoiding embarrassment.

2. A Genuine Commitment To Contribute

An atmosphere of open interchange thrives in the presence of service. As I realize you are actually on my side, information flows more freely. Are you an agent of value, or a mere critic of other's behavior?

An environment of contribution is subverted by the addiction to being right and proving others wrong. Contribution is accelerated whenever we care more about value than waste, proposing than opposing, and building than destroying.

3. A Method of Observation

Authentic communication is the successful marriage of fact and multiple points of view, researching where they intersect for new insight and opportunity. The offspring of that marriage is new insight and meaningful, productive action.

Authenticity recognizes these fundamentals:

  • Each of us wants our important purposes understood and respected.
  • Intersections of purpose allow reinvention of methods and outcomes.
  • Each person’s view is subjectively genuine, and yet no individual view is ever the whole truth. Authenticity is a shift from my truth to greater truth.
  • The intersection is dynamic and is a continual product of research and adjustment.

Authenticity requires intentionally identifying the intersection of three pathways:

  • what is real, factual, observable, with…
  • a continual appreciation of my own purposes and explanations, and a
  • continual appreciation of the purposes and explanations of others.

Authenticity is characterized by inclusion, not exclusion. It values commonality over difference, compassion over indignation, and integration over domination. 

4. Intentionally Develop the Capacity to Communicate

Developing the ability to integrate diverse views and conditions is not automatic. Many people are used to seeing parts, not wholes. We habitually see difference and separation rather than commonality and fit. Skillful integration is earned, not inherited. It is earned with discipline and focus over lengthy periods.

We find that TEAMS who intentionally develop and commit to practicing these principles consistently perform at a high level. 

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