Thinking Deeper about Communication and Responsiveness

Many of us have had the experience of asking for something specific, and not hearing back – for a “long” time, or sometimes ever! Great leaders, such as Pat Gelsinger of Intel, give advice to leaders, especially in a pandemic, to “Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.”

At AJC, we are keenly aware of the frustration and stress that a lack of communication and responsiveness can cause others. Even if we do not know an answer, we aim to respond to customers’ requests in a timely fashion, even if we don’t yet have an answer and are still working on it. After all, the best-intentioned communication, if it comes too late, may illicit responses more negative than mediocre communication that comes timely.

Our value of Communication is much more than just the Responsiveness aspect, however. We are learning every day about how to message information or requests effectively, concisely, and in a way that resonates with our audiences. Without sacrificing timely responses, here are some of the questions we help our clients think through:

The Audience:

  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • Is it something going to a large audience, small audience, or single person?
  • What is their background?
  • What is their current situation?
  • What do they care about?
  • Do they have pre-existing knowledge or feelings about the topic, and if so – what?

The Intention:

  • What exactly is the response we are trying to achieve?
  • Is the communication informational only?
  • Is there a specific request or Call to Action for which we are seeking to secure a positive response?
  • How will we know if we have achieved our intent?

The Channel:

  • What channels do we have available for the communication?
  • What may be the most effective channel for our intention, given our options?
  • What channel will reach our audience the best?
  • Are there different channels we should choose for different audiences, or to reach people in multiple ways? (side note – our consultant Charae Gibbs calls this “Surround Sound!”)
  • Do we have access to other media, such as video or animation?
  • Is it sensitive and requiring a direct phone or web call, even face-to-face (where feasible) – to ensure the highest possible context is available to the audience?

I recently read the book Switch, by Chip & Dan Heath. It is fascinating to read about their model of the Rider and the Elephant. Specifically – to quote Dan Silvestre‘s summary of the Switch model:

“To make change easier, you need to:

  1. Direct the Rider. Provide crystal clear direction. “What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.”
  2. Motivate the Elephant. Engage the emotional side. “What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.”
  3. Shape the Path. Create the conditions for both the rider and the elephant to excel. “What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.”

In order to accomplish all of these aspects of change, effective communication is critical.

We encourage you to think carefully when sending communications or preparing for an important conversation – about the questions we posed above, and most importantly – about what your desired response is.

A final note: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good! The best laid intentions for effective communication all go to pot if they are not perceived by the intended audience as being timely or responsive.