In Part 1 of this Hard NoCs post we called out the difference in the meaning of communications and communication created by that one pesky little “s”. In this post we’ll talk a bit more about why that difference is significant.

NOTE: The purpose of North of Center and the Hard NoCs blog is to propel leaders and their teams to success. But, fun fact – the stuff we’re talking about here won’t only help you become a better leader, it can make you a better colleague, a better friend, a better parent, a better sibling, a better spouse and, yes (true story!) even a better lover! So pay attention!

In our experience, casual use of communications and communication as interchangeable terms is an indicator of a monologic or one-way cultural mindset. In other words, in organizations where folks don’t think about the difference between communications and communication, people tend to talk to, at, and sometimes through one another rather than with one another.

At best this suggests little thought has yet been given to the meaning of communication as an interactive activity. At worst it indicates people are thought of after the message and the medium – all too often as numbers rather than humans.

In other words, in organizations where folks don’t think about the difference between communications and communication, people tend to talk to, at, and sometimes through one another rather than with one another.

As an example, “Let’s deliver the message to the target audience,” is a phrase commonly used by leaders and throughout organizations that have a communications mindset. Notice that phrase is loaded with one-way words: a message is a thing that is delivered; a target is something to hit; an audience generally receives.

This is unfortunate in light of how few colleagues, employees, clients, and customers (also friends, siblings, kids, spouses, and lovers) like to be thought of as targets.

Principle #1 of Communication-Based Leadership is it is impossible to lead without communicating.

At North of Center we figure if we can’t not communicate, we may as well do it on purpose. So, to start developing a communication mindset, drop that errant “s.” Force yourself (and your team members) to think about what you mean every time you use the word “communication.”

In no time at all you will begin to think – and act! — in terms of communicating with people rather than at them, and your relationships, whether with those you lead, with your colleagues, with your customers, or with pretty much anyone else, will begin to improve.

Are you or your organization trapped in a communications mindset? Stay tuned to the Blog of Hard NoCs for ideas about how to be more like Duke Kahanamoku and less like the Little Dutch Boy. (Also, to find out what the heck that even means!)

Meanwhile, do you know of leaders who think of their followers as an audience? Or organizations that think of the people in their market as targets? Let us know how it influences relationships with you as an employee, customer, or even as a leader! We’d love to hear your story.

Cliff W. Gilmore

Cliff W. Gilmore

CEO at North of Center, LLC
Cliff holds a PhD in organization and management with a specialization in leadership. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he completed operational deployments to Fallujah, Iraq and Kandahar and Helmand, Afghanistan. He has led multi-national and inter-agency teams including approximately one year on loan from the Corps as Director of Policy, Planning, and Outreach for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. He also directly advised the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on public and media engagement regarding national security matters for two years as Special Assistant for Public Communication. Today he puts that experience to work helping people become the kind of leaders they would want to follow.
Cliff W. Gilmore
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