Communication is key for building teams that click.
This notion became crystal clear to me when talking with an employee of a huge multinational corporation, owned by a well-known name in the global machinery manufacturing industry. This particular employee worked in the Human Resources department, managing the approximate 3000 factory workers employed by the company. Let’s call him Dave.
I had a chance to talk with Dave. I asked him, “Sir, in such a routine day – where every minute is allocated and there isn’t much time for one-on-one or group discussion – can communication really make a difference to teams?”
His response: “You are underestimating the power of communication. The communication born out of care and consensus can elevate you to places you never thought possible.”
This got me thinking of the parallels in nature. For example, in large colonies of ants or honeybees, it’s caring, consensual communication that allows workers to come together systematically, yet accomplish challenging tasks individually.
Through my conversations with Dave, learning about his invaluable human resource management experience, the 2 Cs of communication were born. It’s what he said next that established them in my mind forever.
The Importance of Care in Communication
Dave went on to narrate the following real-life scenario:
“The factory in which he worked was located on the border of two different states of India: Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Therefore, workers were coming from two different states. The workers from Tamil didn’t share the same opinions as those from Kannadiga, and these differences grew over time. This ultimately led to a belief that the company, specifically management, didn’t care about their respective opinions. This spurred infighting among employees, which, like the differences between workers, grew over time.
Small issues such as seating arrangements in the dining area and which plate could be used by whom quickly became bones of contention between workers. Ultimately, the Workers’ Union called a meeting and decided to go on strike due to a lack of care and consensus between factory workers and the human resource management team.”
However, Dave the Human Resource Manager did care. He cared for each individual, not just as a factory worker, but as a family member. This realization was when communication truly started.
Dave talked to the Workers’ Union and tried to arrive at a reasonable consensus between the non-negotiating parties. Unfortunately, the Tamil and Karnataka workers still didn’t see eye to eye.
The Importance of Consensus in Communication
So, Dave kept talking. Gradually, he was able to break the ice between the Tamil and Karnataka workers. After a month of negotiation, clearcut boundaries were laid out for each individual worker – even the plates in the dining area were numbered and assigned to minimize friction among workers.
The negotiations continued. Finally, after 3 months of nonstop negotiations, combined with the understanding and care shown by Dave and his management team, the communication roadblocks were overcome and a consensus was reached. With the conflict resolved, workers returned to work wholeheartedly, resuming their duties as a full-fledged team.
My conversation with Dave reinforced my understanding of communication. I know that in high volume interactions, it is difficult to streamline every piece of communication happening within and outside an organization. If leadership teams in a company show enough care towards the other departments, creating a larger consensus through smooth communication, then differences between individuals do not become bones of contention. The fluidity of communication amongst departments and people is only attained when an organization cares enough to formalize consensus and makes operational excellence the ultimate goal.
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