May 4, 2018

Communication — An essential element to success

Col. Stephen Lanier
JB Charleston, S.C.

I consider myself an optimistic realist, or a realistic optimist, depending on the day of the week.

By that I mean that given any set of circumstances, a great attitude, focus and hard work can produce a successful outcome.

When the task at hand requires teamwork (like most situations do), “good communication” is an essential skill required to produce organizational success.

Good communication — sounds simple, but it is actually a complex endeavor. Broken down into its most basic form, the communication process involves a sender, the message, the medium by which the message is transmitted, and a receiver. The medium could be written, spoken, emailed/messaged, body language, facial expression, tone of voice, or just about any combination of these. The communication process should also include a feedback loop by which the receiver acknowledges receipt and understanding of the message. Sounds simple enough, right? The problem lies in both the words/expressions used and the assumptions we make as senders and receivers of information. Additionally, we are inundated with information from various sources as we go about our daily routines. So, what does communication have to do with organizational success?

As team members we rely on communication. Our organizations are complex, with anywhere from a handful to hundreds or even thousands of team members carrying out the mission daily. Activities span a wide range, from flight line operations to admin duties and everything in between. We encounter challenges every day. Simple challenges can typically be dealt with easily by a single person. But we often face complex problems, both at work and in our personal lives. Successfully navigating these complex issues requires coordinated effort. And coordinated effort requires — good communication. A simple example may help illustrate the importance of communication.

The weather in Charleston the first week of January presented unique challenges. Consider an Airman that reported to work the first day after the snow storm and encountered ice on the sidewalk outside of her building. Given the right resources, she could remove the ice from the sidewalk. A phone call or text could help her alert her coworkers to the hazard. An additional call to Command Post could help raise awareness of members of the entire Wing to potential icing hazards around the base. This is a simple example, but it helps illustrate the impact of good communications.

So, how effective is your organization at communication? Are supervisors and leaders aware of the daily challenges that effect airmen? Think about the communication process we discussed earlier. Is information being transmitted to the appropriate person/place? Is the message being received and understood? Is the message being relayed to ensure that it reaches the appropriate audience? And finally, how can you help the members of your organization become great communicators? It is an essential skill required for personal and organizational success.

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Air Force photograph by Senior Airman James Thompson

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