Applying Communication Lessons from the Living Room to the Boardroom

There are many similarities between the family and the workplace. For one, both involve groups of people brought together by circumstance, not necessarily by choice. Both also have structures and power dynamics that set the tone for the group as a whole.

In a nuclear family, parents usually have the leadership role, much like managers in an office. While family discussion topics may differ from those of business, many of the communication techniques are similar.

This became apparent while reading “Communication, clear roles help stepfamilies bond, Utah study says” from The Salt Lake Tribune. The article discusses ways in which stepfathers can become closer to their stepchildren. The two primary recommendations are for the stepfather and the mother to come to agreement on parenting methods, and for the mother to maintain open communication with her children regarding the relationships involved.

As you can probably see, these lessons are not specific to the home and this particular situation. People who work for large corporations often must answer to multiple superiors or stakeholders, which can complicate communications. How many times have you been in a situation where two or more of your senior colleagues give you conflicting tasks or points of view?

Managers and other higher ups are viewed as knowledge bases, and their subordinates expect them to have most or all of the answers. When those answers conflict with each other, employees can lose morale or faith in the organization. That is why it is important for people in positions of authority to communicate their visions with some consistency. Providing a united front will garner more respect from those they supervise.

Another issue that frequently surfaces in today’s economy is restructuring. Just as children need to adjust when their families are restructured, employees need to adjust when their organizations are restructured. It can be difficult for many to accept someone they have never met before as their superior. As with the parenting example, open communication from the existing management about the changes facilitates a smooth transition. Allowing opportunities for dialogue is important and immensely helpful. When employees (and children) feel their needs are being considered, they are more likely to accept a new authority and presence.

Sometimes restructuring places someone in a role that another party may feel should be rightfully theirs, and in some situations, it may be impossible to appease all parties. However, a discussion with the person who feels wronged, where you explain the reasoning behind the change and the goals needed to attain the desired position, is more likely to reinforce a level of trust than is ignoring the conversation. Avoidance and obfuscation are not communication options.

Bottom line? Message consistency and communication timeliness and frequency are key to strengthening relationships in both the family and the workplace.

Speaking that Connects

Effective Team Leader