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Communication | Employee Engagement | Leadership | Coaching

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Is your message getting through? Don’t confuse information with communication

Is your message getting through? Don’t confuse information with communication

by Moyra Mackie on January 25, 2014

It was George Bernard Shaw that said “The biggest mistake in communication is the illusion it has taken place.”

Which is why the very first line on my company website is:

“We aim to improve the quality of communication in workplaces around the world.”

That is what I do, distilled down to its essence.

The reason I focus on communication is that I believe effective leaders and high performing teams have a habit of consistent, constructive communication.

Most companies mistake information for communication

Companies are generally great at information – in fact employees are drowning in information, yet thirsty for real communication.

Wikipedia defines three stages of the communication process:

  1. Thinking
  2. Delivering
  3. Receiving

Most people are probably aware that “real communication” demands careful preparation and skilled transmission. Misunderstandings tend to arise because of the gap between step 2 and step 3.

And the reason for this is simple:

“We can’t not not communicate.  We are always communicating even when we are not talking. Our communication is made up of the content and our relationship and the relationship will be the lens through which the content is interpreted.” ~ Paul Watzlawick

Communication is about relationships

The relationship between the sender and receiver of the message will dictate whether the message “gets through” or not.

Communication is about what is NOT said

When I begin working with clients – either in the coaching room one to one or in the office with teams – I am most attentive to what is not said. In an effort to “work better together”  groups of people edit, avoid, minimise and censor so that what they think and feel is quite different to what they say.  Yet the unspoken is still communicated in some way.

I use the analogy of a bucket of water.  Each time someone in a team avoids saying what they think or feel, a cup of water gets added to the bucket.  Over time that invisible bucket will overflow and cause visible conflict.

I frequently get called in by clients when the bucket has overflowed, so my role is to support the process of re-learning the art of genuine communication.  And it’s not about the words. It’s about improving the relationship and increasing the content – reducing the amount of what lies unspoken.

Communication requires trust

Mackie Consulting teambuilding

High performing teams


Trustful teams demand the ability to open up to each other and to work through conflict which can be the result of people sharing more of what they think and feel. Which is appropriate given that communication comes from the Latin word “to share”.

The ability to really communicate requires three key skills:

Communication leads to action

Coaching works partly because coaches model genuine communication and clients feel heard.  In addition to clear action plans that emerge in the coaching room, clients register – often unconsciously – that the quality of the relationship led to their clarity of thinking and their commitment to action.

Quality communication, in the coaching room and in the office, results in higher motivation, more robust decision making and sustainable action.

What are your tips for improving real communication in your workplace?


Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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