By Græme Gordon - Executive Director, Praxity
In the UK we now have a Supreme Court like the US court, albeit a particularly British version. Historically, the ultimate legal body was the Court of Appeals, made up of the judiciary’s Law Lords.
In the sixties one of the key Law Lords, Lord Denning, was often appointed to chair key independent inquiries into incidents or scandals of the greatest public or constitutional importance.
Towards the end of his life he wrote a paper on his time chairing such inquiries, one aspect of which struck me as key. He felt the reports of these investigations were always so long they required an “Executive Summary” to highlight key issues and recommendations. On occasion, these summaries were themselves too long to be easily digested. Although it’s pure conjecture on my part, I think he was referring to the abilities of certain politicians – “plus ça change …!” In these cases, he had a summary of the executive summary, in bullet point form.
The main thing this further summarising suggested to him was that in all cases, and while there were up to 10 key issues highlighted by the investigations, one issue was consistently repeated. Even where a more simplified summary was not required, he found the same issue – communication. Poor communication, lack of communication, misleading communication or, more usually, a combination.
When I took over at Praxity, communication was the first thing I concentrated on. Frankly, that hasn’t changed.
Getting the appropriate information to the right people at the right time, even if they don’t know that they need it then, is key to building a successful organisation of any type. Don’t get me wrong, there are other factors too, like engaging with and motivating the right people, but without good communications all your best efforts will be as naught.
And “good communication” is not easy. Especially in this era of instant comms and social media.
Winston Churchill’s been credited with writing “If I had more time I would have written you a shorter letter”. And how right he was. How easy it is to mess things up if you send even a short message, or tweet, without a great deal of prior thought.
Just think about e-mails you may have sent or received which were totally misunderstood. They can cause more problems than they solve or sour an otherwise good relationship.
If you need to “dash off” a reply or a note, stop! Ensure you haven’t assumed the recipient has knowledge they may not, and check if there’s a risk they may misinterpret what you intend.
If you can, always take time to ensure all your communication to whichever audience and in any form, will only be read the way you intend. If you’re short on time, then use more direct communication methods like phone calls and face-to-face encounters, where tone of voice and inflections can be heard and understood, and any confusions can be resolved at the time.
This blog was first published on the website of the Association for Accounting Marketing