Krug: What if internal communication existed?
Krug: What if internal communication existed?

Internal communication always has been an oxymoron, or at best a suspect term.

Like jumbo shrimp. Or deafening silence. Or government assistance.

It doesn’t matter if you cut your teeth in an office teeming with “Mad Men” characters — back when men’s faces changed expression only to slightly t.....

Internal communication always has been an oxymoron, or at best a suspect term.
Like jumbo shrimp. Or deafening silence. Or government assistance.
It doesn’t matter if you cut your teeth in an office teeming with “Mad Men” characters — back when men’s faces changed expression only to slightly to flinch from the flame of a Zippo lighter making contact with the end of a Marlboro — or one of today’s high-energy agencies, where people eat wheat grass... on purpose; most of us have a shared experience with regard to internal communication.
Communication, from the top to the bottom, from the bottom to the top, or horizontally across an organization, always has been pretty lousy.
What’s the No. 1 problem with your company? Internal communication. Don’t even bother with the survey. It’s bad, and you know it.
Why is that? Well, for one thing, we have too many lines of communication and aren’t consistent with how we use them. Worse, we live in an age in which far too much communication is conducted by email. Not everything should be an email, but that is our business default setting.
I’ve opined against businesses’ overreliance on emails in the workplace. And, no, I’m not prepared to change my stance. In short, emails suck the same way that sticky notes left on your phone in the 1990s sucked.
We send far too many missives via email. Whether we are trying to take the easy way out of a difficult conversation or wasting pixels with trivial nonsense, we almost always use the medium incorrectly. We’ve taken an amazing piece of business communication technology and reduced it to guttural grunts and moans, writing in QWERTY code and often creating more questions than answers with our transmissions.
Was that email serious? Was it sarcastic? Was it DEFCON 1 or DEFCON 5? Was I really just reprimanded in an email sent at 5:30 p.m. from someone I see eight or nine hours a day that sits no more than a few yards away from my cubicle that I picked up on my phone a minute after I walked out of the office?
But I am not going to dive back into the email quagmire again today. (Well, I kind of did, but I am moving on.)

• • •

In parts of four decades of professional communication, in communication companies large and small, in major metropolitan cities and tiny hamlets, before the advent of texts and emails and after, in the period of time when people actually went to the library or the encyclopedia to look up a fact and when they could call up a Wiki page for the answer, I’ve always been around the drive-by communicators.
So, yeah, it’s the people and not the medium.
The sticky note was the analog email. Before that, there were handwritten notes that didn’t stick to anything and needed to be taped to the handset of the rotary phone that adorned your desk. Before that, these communications probably were delivered as words chiseled into rocks with other rocks.
It might be 15 minutes or 15 hours before the conversation that sticky note was prompting would occur. Or, just like many emails, it might be forgotten about altogether.
Regardless, during that fermentation period, the recipient was left to wonder if their boss was ready to fire them or was just in a hurry.
In any case, these communications were about as impersonal and ineffective as one could imagine.

• • •

It’s always baffled me that so many leaders have struggled to initiate and then have these conversations via the spoken word. We speak the same language, but don’t.
In leadership, clarity is everything.
Clarity of vision.
Clarity of mission.
Clarity of direction or purpose.
So, yeah, I am about to put communication on leaders — because everything is on leaders.
We judge our leaders on their ability to articulate such. But how many of them actually initiate a conversation that resonates with their teams? Rhetorical. Not enough.
And the leaders that take the time to measure their words and convey them sensibly — in some order, and with consistency — stand a far better chance of not only expressing themselves as they intend but also of truly resonating.
One of my all-time favorite business books isn’t really a business book. It is packaged to look like a business book so that business people will read it, because business people have money, and money is required to purchase books.
Nonetheless, I view Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence” as a human communication book that business leaders buy. And they’ve bought a ton of them, because unlike most other business books, it’s actually worth reading.
One of the five precepts in Goleman’s take on emotional intelligence is that empathy is key to understanding. We must empathize with those around us — those in our charges and those for whom we accept the charge — to be a resonant leader. Empathy in our words — and actions — draws us closer to those with whom we work because we are viewed as more accessible, more credible and more genuine. It makes leaders more effective, and their teams more efficient.
This is, of course, an extremely oversimplified take on a book with more complexity than your typical business book. Then again, your typical business book often can yield its premise in the prologue and is generally composed of 10 pages of premise, 100 pages of bloviating, 10 pages of summary thoughts that may or may not support the first 120 pages and then 100 pages of supporting documentation that has been borrowed from other people’s research. But that’s a rant for another time.
Suffice to say that Goleman, who has created an entire catalog of works built around the concept of emotional intelligence, offers some meaningful thoughts in his book that might even cause you to examine how you talk to people, what you say, what they hear and how they perceive you. In the end, you may learn that you are a human being and that your associates are, as well. And if you can relate to them, they will relate to you. And, who knows, that might even start with you canning an email and standing in front of the room to communicate something important.
I’ve read that book enough times to wear out the spine, and so far I haven’t come across any suggestion to begin using email or sticky notes to facilitate internal communication that resonates with anyone.

• • •

As always, stay classy.
Chris Krug is president of the progressive media communications firm No Limit Agency in Chicago. No Limit is a full-service agency whose practice focuses on strategy, brand management, creative campaigns and delivering unparalleled placement in the media. No Limit Agency works with some of the best-known brands in North America, and that’s not a coincidence. Contact Krug by calling 312-526-3996 or via email at [email protected]