In the last article,
I introduced a series about what I learned from battling the ants in my
house this summer. It seems there were a number of lessons I gleaned
from those long, early mornings of battle, and one of the most
interesting observations (and important lessons) came as a result of
watching how the ants interacted with one another while performing their
Have you ever noticed that when two ants
meet from opposite directions, they pause for a moment – seemingly to
share information of some kind, before going on their merry way? I
thought it was interesting that each and every time two ants met, this
occurred. Certainly, I thought, they were sharing important information
about the tasks at hand, and perhaps even making modifications to the
detailed plans previously discussed. I fully expected to see some sort
of behavior modification at some point – a change in direction, change
in intensity, or some other indication that important communications had
After continuing my observation for some
time, however, I realized that there were no changes in the ants’
behavior – even over several days. They still followed the same trail
every day. How could this be? Weren’t the ants communicating, and
sharing information vital to accomplishment of their mission (getting
into my kitchen)? It appeared that this was not the case, and the ants
must have been simply exchanging pleasantries. What an incredible model
of most organizations these days.
In today’s competitive and fast-paced
environment, it is critical that open, honest and timely communications
occur on a regular basis. Whether you are on a project team
communicating with your stakeholders or performing routine daily tasks,
clear, consistent communication is critical to the organizations’
success. Yet, time and time again our efforts at communicating fall
short of hitting the mark in sharing information that could make our
efforts more effective and efficient. We’re no better than the ants!
In these days of technological marvels,
we take for granted the fact that we have multiple means of
communication. We are wired at the hip, have 7/24 access to news,
information, and each other. We have cell phones with multi-function
capabilities, satellite phones, and wireless email. Yet, time and time
again, I hear people express frustration at the lack of communication.
Why is this?
The answer lies in the fact that we are
so busy “communicating” (talking), that we’re not taking the time to
listen. Yes, listening is a critical step in conducting good
communications. I have heard it said that the 80/20 rule applies here.
We should strive for using our voices only 20% of the time, and
listening to others the other 80%. Imagine what that would look like in
your organization. (Idea sharing, innovation, efficiency – need I go
I really like the concept Dr. Stephen
Lundin presented in his book Fish! “Be present” he says. This
seemed to be a very simple, yet powerful way to enhance communications
between people - taking the time to be very intent on what the other
person is saying, and not distracted by the other thousand things that
are going on.
I decided to try this shortly after I
read that book, and discovered that a conscious act of “being present”
for someone was a rather remarkable experience. Not only did I find that
I was very interested in what the other person was saying, as a side
benefit I found myself more in tune with the opportunities present in my
surroundings. For example, I met a really interesting gentleman from
county that resulted in an opportunity to work together on a project
proposal. Had I not been “present” during our introductions, I would not
have realized all we had in common, and this opportunity would never
have been known. I was amazed when I realized how much I have missed
when I haven’t been “present” for others.
Make your communication count!
Another challenge to effective
communication is that some people (particularly in the upper echelons of
management) struggle with the amount of communication/information that
should be shared with the staff. Unfortunately, this can be a result of
the manager feeling like they are giving up power, or would somehow make
them more vulnerable. This often leads to less effective efforts on the
part of the team, as vital information is not shared.
I cannot stress this enough - share
important information. Don’t be afraid to tell others the information
they need to be successful. After all, aren’t you all on the same team,
trying to accomplish the same purposes? (Actually, shared team
accomplishment of a significant goal is very empowering.)
Don’t be an ant!
Change or Die!
Projects Really Fail
The Importance of