In the industrial workplace, there are obvious reasons why communication should be a priority in the training matrix. Loud, dangerous and fast-paced environments make free-flow interaction essential, which is perhaps why health and safety processes became the lynchpin of "human factors" in aerospace and automotive. But the undercurrents of communicative value go much deeper than that. They are the hot, swirling mantle underneath the tough crust of workplace dynamics.
Increasingly these days, the way people feel has become something to talk about. No longer do we live in a world where feelings are taboo and big boys don't cry. Even on TV, men hugging each other is totally expected, even in the most unlikely settings. 20 years ago this just wasn't the case.
The industrial scene is, however, still dominated by the male gender and whatever the reason, things look likely to stay that way for a while yet. Inexplicable as the fact that there are no women in world-class snooker, this is nevertheless a notable component of the difficulties faced by the sector when it comes to breaking down traditional blockades. This article looks at the fabric of male resistance to change, where it comes from and what it does: https://www.unimedliving.com/men/lifestyle/turn-and-face-the-change.html
When I first came to deliver productivity programmes with no preconception of what I would find, resistance stared me in the face but I didn't really recognise it. Too young and far too fresh with ideas to turn a hair at a sea of folded arms, I brazened out the process and broke records as a result. Older and wiser and faced with a different world, I find the character of the industrial workplace now more eclectic and individualistic, and dealing with pockets of resistance involves a whole new level of collaboration in what has been dubbed the 'social revolution'.
Communication takes many forms beyond the vowels and consonants. Mood and attitude convey through tone of voice, body language and placement of action - these can impact on a culture just as acutely as language used in the working environment. Unless actively addressed, such tendencies tend to veer towards the negative (nothing personal - we all lean the same way!) can become hallmarks of toxicity, leading to attrition, hidden down-time and even more resistance. You can't buy your way out of a negative culture, you have to align it with a whole new mode of thinking.
We all harbour 'gremlins', and there are lots of stories about them. Some talk about two wolves in our minds, light and dark - the one you feed getting the upper hand. Others say simply that "self-speak colours all you do". Conversations in our heads go a long way towards creating our reality, and that first port of call in taking responsibility for action is not always easy to sail into. But gremlins leave a signature that's easy to spot... these phrases stick out like scat on a doorstep:
"It's always been this way."
"Things will never change."
"This just can't be done."
"It's their fault."
All or any of these phrases infiltrate our self-speak whenever we're on a negative thought track - big red flags to be wary of when it comes to changing the way we think and how we apply ourselves to continuous improvement. Stepping over them requires more recognition than effort... along with a healthy acceptance of that humanist vulnerability we share with everyone else.
So next time you're in a boardroom talking about communication, bring these things to mind. Positive cultures don't grow from memos, they create themselves through choice, free will and understanding, then to be nourished by empathy, loyalty and alignment. To truly benefit from any information,, we have first to let it in. Have a chat with firstname.lastname@example.org to see what crossing the threshold might look like.
Join me for the June webinar to thrash out the case for old and new styles of workplace management: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/630641625077