Converting Problems Into Opportunities: Communication in the Workplace

Communication. A word that has so much meaning and importance, yet often is misunderstood. It's a word that can be the difference between success and failure, and a word that can lead to our own unraveling as professionals and as an organization.

In marketing, our world revolves around communication; our primary objective is to provide clear, concise communications to an intended audience. We are challenged to quickly create dynamic, interactive experiences that connect to a world which is moving at a more rapid pace than ever before. So we should be expert communicators -- doctoral candidates in some respects, right?

Many of us are visual communicators, or we rely on visuals to communicate our messages, so our ability to communicate at whatever level is necessary is a master skill. So why is it that marketing professionals find it difficult to communicate within organizations and to build and maintain their corporate relationships? (I'm not going to answer this question; it's just a little nugget to think about.) However, I will say that one main difference between someone who is highly successful and someone who becomes stifled and stagnant is their ability to communicate at a high level with everyone.

The value of communication isn't totally dependent on the words that are used; it is in the timing and the way that the words are used. The rhythm of our communication should be melodic to our audience, i.e., music to their ears. Our ability to communicate within the rhythm of the recipients' minds is what generates their interest, maintains relationships and drives understanding. Successful professionals know when and how to communicate controversial messages as well as insignificant details. Great communication is like fine improvised jazz -- although the sound is complex, each note is hit precisely, intentionally and in rhythm.
The approach to interoffice communication is (at least it should be) the same as the approach to marketing communication. In a way, our communication within an organization is a form of marketing. The way you communicate is an extension of you as a brand. However, too often we approach conflict, difficulties and setbacks as problems and, as a result, turn ourselves into the victims. In reality, these situations are opportunities, not hardships -- a philosophy shared by many successful companies. Communication should be as much about resolution and moving forward as it is about identifying the circumstance or root of the issue.

One example of how poor communication can derail an organization is the NFL. Last year, huge communication issues were botched after domestic violence issues jumped to the forefront of both the organization and the American media. The NFL's public response failed repeatedly because it approached the issue solely as a problem.

The rhythm of their communication was initially so off-center that many people were turned off, seeing the League as a failed example of our society. The moment that started to shift was when the NFL approached the situation as an opportunity to educate and relate to the public. They eventually put together a campaign about many of the issues and provided direction on how to build from the opportunity. Had they communicated this way from the beginning, it would have more than likely hedged a lot of the negativity that surrounded the season.
Communicating our personal brand is the first step in attaining a job, but it doesn't stop there. Success in any job requires consistently building that brand -- and the relationships that support it. And the key is communication. You can't build anything without tools and a foundation. The foundation for communication is understanding the fundamentals of when and how to communicate. The tools are the people (the nails and supports) and also the ways in which you communicate, such as email and face-to-face meetings.

The next time you find yourself in a meeting to discuss a problem, don't dwell on the problem, or even consider it a problem. Think and communicate about the ways to make things better. With any luck, you will create positive opportunities, your meeting will be more successful and your results will be greater than you could have imagined.