“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters
Life can get so busy. Our personal and/or professional roles and responsibilities can see us experiencing feelings of being time poor while we juggle overcrowded schedules, expectations and deadlines. One of the areas that can slip away or be overlooked in the midst of all of this is effective communication with those within our spheres of influence. If time isn’t carved out within the busyness and the role of purposeful communication isn’t highly valued and practiced then opportunities to maximise our own and others engagement, wellbeing, contribution, growth and development may be missed.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer
I recently had the chance to spend some time supporting a camp leader team. This is definitely one work environment that can mirror what I’ve described above. The camp leaders professional roles and responsibilities span the full 24 hours of each day as they fulfil not only outcome focussed instruction and safety components of the participants experience, but also the pastoral care element of children being away from their homes for that week. One of my favourite quotes definitely is on show during a week at camp, ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’, as camp leaders interdependently create an experience for each individual that will hopefully be fondly remembered for a long time. Communication is absolutely at the heart of making this happen.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
One area that we highlighted in our sessions was the importance of being explicit as we communicate (in particular areas for this group especially). ‘The illusion that it has taken place’, as the quote above most eloquently describes, is a major challenge that must be navigated. To limit feelings of frustration, blame and disconnection as we assume someone should know or maybe knows, we can open pathways to accountability, empowerment and the fostering of a positive culture if we have the courage to share what needs to be said, compassionately, openly and honestly. I was able to witness this in action within this group, with the ripples being created by the staff’s thoughts, words and actions becoming teachable moments for us all.
“Examine what is said and not who speaks.” – African proverb
The most powerful session that I facilitated saw the camp leaders engaging in a peer to peer feedback activity. Sometimes we can feel feedback travels downwards rather than owning the important role that we all play in our own and others engagement, wellbeing, contribution, growth and development in the workplace. The activity started with us all honestly reflecting on our own strengths and areas for growth before having the opportunity to provide observations for each other in these areas. All the staff involved spoke to me afterwards about how this process was important and valuable for them. It reinforced. It supported. It challenged. It reminded. It inspired. But most importantly the peer to peer feedback opened up meaningful and purposeful conversations rooted in mutual respect and a deep belief of we’re all in this together.
“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” – Brian Tracy
Having spent a lot of time in camp over the years, here in Australia as well as overseas, I often say that what I love most is that when at its best camp is a celebration of the imperfect. Real really is a big deal. When participants and staff choose exploring the possibilities, discovering potential and acting authentically, guards are dropped and comfort zones are expanded, that’s when the magic happens. Connection is the only real currency of any value in this environment. And as I said earlier in this post, communication is absolutely at the heart of making this happen.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi