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Conclusion: Communicating in a Complex Environment

The more complex an environment, the more important a decision, the more face-to-face dialogue becomes important. Because most communications are nonverbal, those involved in the communications process need the opportunity for their cognitive unconscious minds to pick up cues from the speaker and understand his or her meaning. When these cues and the words spoken are out of sync, the listener has the opportunity to ask deeper questions to understand why the speaker feels the way he or she does. The words the speaker uses may have different connotations, different meanings, so the listener needs opportunities to ask for clarification. When the speaker receives cognitive unconscious clues that the listener does not understand, he or she has the opportunity to reiterate a point in a different way, giving the listener alternative ways to draw meaning from the words spoken, enabling the listener’s cognitive unconscious to use multiple schemas to obtain meaning. If only written words are used, such as email, critical meanings are lost and the communication process is inefficient.

People need to feel safe when they are engaged in the communication process. Fear and inhabitions are psychological noise, distorting the messages both unconsciously—through the impact of automatic reactions—and consciously—where the team member purposefully leaves out information, intentionally spins conclusions, or lies outright in an effort either to protect his or her own self-image and self-esteem or to protect someone else. If team members understand that they can be frank without being judged or punished, leaders get better information, perhaps even ground truth. As leaders, we need to create environments in which team members find it easy to be courageous and are rewarded for doing so.

Because the enemy of efficiency is complexity, and complexity is a major contributor to project failure, our goal is to communicate in a manner that reduces complexity in the most efficient manner possible. We want to minimize time and resources spent communicating and achieving ground truth, enabling us to make more and better decisions in the shortest possible time. Dialogue is the most efficient manner of communication, as time and resources are not wasted with heavy control talk. Instead, precious energy is applied efficiently toward building understanding, leading to solutions that prevent project failure.

Now that you understand emotionally intelligent communications, you are ready to progress to Self-Leadership, the focus of Chapter 4, in which we will further explore selftalk and self-images, important components of the mental make-up of a leader.

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