Big Ideas

Communications Skills

Margaret Terry Lindquist

Nov 2006

In every issue of Profit, an unintended theme seems to emerge during the week we send the issue to press. For this one, the theme is undoubtedly communication. From the profiles of customers such as Swisscom, which is surpassing its competition by communicating better with its customers, and Horizon Health, which has achieved excellence by refining its communication with clients under stress, to the management advice pieces, which talk about conflict resolution and bridging the gap between technologists and business people, this issue is all about the benefits that come from improving communication.


What's interesting to me is that the articles, to some degree, all focus on what makes for good, productive, or high-value communication. But isn't it great to know that sometimes quality isn't the issue—sometimes just opening the door to more communication is good enough? Take a story I recently heard from an editor I work with. He did a phone interview with a CIO at a major financial services company. During the course of the conversation, the editor learned that the man he was speaking to wasn't sequestered in a corner office. Instead, the CIO was sitting at a desk out on the floor of his IT department, surrounded by his employees. Of course this CIO has an office, which he uses for private phone calls and meetings, but he spends most of his work time surrounded by his group, which numbers in the hundreds. He'll never go back to an office full-time, I would guess, given the value he gets from being more available to his team. He's made it easier for them to pitch a quick idea, rather than having to set up a formal appointment, and he can easily ask a question or answer one, participate in conversations, and experience changes in the mood of the department—all of which make it well worth giving up the four walls and windows of the traditional executive office.

Is this CIO engaged in high-quality, thoughtful communication at all times? No. But by taking this one action, he's fundamentally placed himself into the communications flow of his department, raising his awareness of the organism that is his team. Isn't it great to know that, sometimes, you don't have to be hyperconscious of how you're communicating with people? Sometimes, you just have to be present.

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