MODULE 1 COMMUNICATION IS BUSINESS
WEEK 1 LEADERSHIP, COMMUNICATION AND MANAGEMENT
Key Topics we will cover this week are:
• Introducing definitions of the elements of leadership, management and communication
• Developing a framework for the interrelationships between leadership communication and organisational communication, and discuss the framing of the role of the communication practitioner within the organisational structure
• By the end of Week 1 you should be able to discuss and identify leadership and management communication styles within your workplace or work experiences in the context of a study of Business Communication.
Each week the readings from the set text (Dwyer, J 2016, Communication for Business and the Professions, Strategies and Skills, 6th edition) are listed as ‘textbook’:
Textbook: Chapter 1, Communication Foundations, pp 2-4.
Textbook: Chapter 8, Leadership, pp 185-203.
The following reading has been electronically supplied in the Readings on the unit site:
Penrose, J M 1993, Advanced Business Communication, 2nd edition. Belmont, Caliph, Wadsworth Pub Co. Chapter 1, pp 4–15.
Independent Learning Task 1
Complete this sentence: Leadership is ……………………………………?
Post your response on the Week 1 Discussion Board. Read other students definitions and respond to them whilst also responding’ to comments made about your own definition. Truly, there is no absolutely right or absolutely wrong answer, but the sharing of ideas in itself brings knowledge.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post in the Week 1 DB before midnight on Sunday of Week 3.
ABOUT INDEPENDENT LEARNING TASKS
The Independent learning tasks are peer-learning activities and while your Tutor will give weekly feedback, it will be general in its nature and not specific to individual students.
The idea of these tasks is to give students an opportunity to practice some elements of analysis or to delve more deeply into some aspect of theory that will help you develop a deeper understanding of the Unit content. It may also help you respond to your assignment tasks. The more you get involved with your peers, the better your collective and individual understanding is likely to be.
Part of your mark will be based on your own responses and your responses to other students. These Independent learning tasks represent an important part of Assessment 1. To access all the information on Assessment 1, go to your Unit Outline.
Communication is part of all human activity. We all communicate all the time. It is so all-encompassing that it defies definition.
A respected scholar recently observed in the pages of this Journal that “considering that communication is one of the oldest human activities, it is somewhat astonishing that no generally accepted definition exists.” It is the present writer’s contention that the reasons for this apparent anomaly can be identified and that a lack o0f a definition is not as serious as it seems, for just as Einstein did not change ‘the laws of the Universe’, so non definition can change ‘the laws of communication.” (Newman 2006, p. 115)
That may be so, but the study of the differing definitions is fascinating and we will be looking at many of these as the weeks go by.
DISCUSSION POINT: Many times in our personal and professional lives we know whether we are really connecting or not with others. Reflect on a situation where you have communicated successfully and then on an unsuccessful communication experience. This is the journey we are on in this Unit — developing the skills and knowledge to be able to be aware of what is being communicated by us and those around us.
ABOUT DISCUSSION POINTS
Throughout this study guide, you will find these discussion points. They are there for you to follow through as a personal and reflective moment about the issue at hand. Sometimes, they will direct you to specific short reading or to a YouTube clip. You can share your thoughts about the discussion points in the Discussion Point thread on the Discussion Board (DB).
These Discussion Points are not assessed. They are presented as an extra talking point for the group. We hope you get some further insights through participating in them.
Within the business community, public and private organisations and the professions, communication is an integral part of leading, managing, informing, mentoring, motivating, coaching, instructing, persuading and reporting. All of these activities start with what we hear, say and feel.
By successfully getting your message across you convey your thoughts and ideas effectively. When not successful, the thoughts and ideas that you send do not necessarily reflect your own, causing a communication breakdown and creating roadblocks that stand in the way of your goals — both personally and professionally. Getting your message across is paramount to progressing. To do this you must understand what your message is, what audience you are sending it to, and how it is perceived. You must also factor in the circumstances surrounding your communication, such as situation and cultural context. (Manktelow n.d.)
For businesses to flourish today, they need effective communication practitioners who listen, observe, survey and map their organisation with the objective of delivering successful outcomes through the use of communication models and techniques in all their forms.
Communication is the key driver of leadership and management. It happens every day, everywhere in every workplace.
1.1 DEFINITION OF LEADERSHIP
Leadership is the process of influencing groups and individuals towards the achievement of an organisation’s vision and objectives (Dwyer 2009, p. 250).
Effective leaders have the ability to create the conditions for self-motivation in followers and the capacity to influence others through communication and leading by example. The outcome is a high-performance culture and positive communication practices that build motivation, confidence, satisfaction and commitment to achieve the organisation’s vision and objectives. (Dwyer 2013, p. 179)
A leader’s influence is like singing — if one only belts out one note, there’s no song. But if you have nine notes, it sounds like real music. (Johansen n.d.)
DISCUSSION POINT: Think about three situations in which you have acted as a leader, and then nominate three people who have, in your opinion, been successful leaders. List six behaviours that made these people successful leaders. Have you
demonstrated these successful behaviours when leading a group?
REALITY CHECK: follow the YouTube link below to a discussion on why, how and what inspirational leaders communicate
ABOUT REALITY CHECKS: These Reality Checks are designed to draw connections between the ideas and theories being discussed and real world communication to
‘value add’ to this week’s topic. Sometimes this will be a case study or it may be
YouTube links or other media.
You can share your thoughts about the discussion points and reality checks in the thread for this week in the Discussion Board (DB). These Reality Checks are not part of any assessment. They are just for you and your student colleagues. We hope you
get some further insights through participating in them.
1.2 LEADERSHIP COMMUNICATION
Leadership communication is communication that is fed by the leader’s character and the organisation’s values. It sets the emotional climate of an organisation and is an expression of its work culture.
Although leaders and followers are closely linked, it is the leader who often initiates the relationship, creates the communication linkages, and carries the business burden for maintaining the relationship. (Northouse 2010, pp 3-4)
Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see’. As a leader or leadership team, you exert enormous influence on how the organisation is led, managed and how these roles are communicated.
Leadership communication encompasses interpersonal skills as well as a range of oral and written skills set against any number of communication resources (e.g. physical appearance and body language; use of symbols and metaphor; media and artefacts).
A basic model of leadership communications is recreated from Chateris-Black (2006, p. 26).
Verbal and Non-Verbal Modes
The Leadership message should be developed with careful intent and extreme care. Then it must be skilfully delivered and, most importantly, it must be sustainable.
Leadership messages do one or more of the following (Baldoni 2003, pp 6-7):
• Affirm organisational vision and mission. These messages let people know where the organisation is headed and what it stands for.
• Drive transformational initiatives (e.g. change). These messages prepare people to do things differently and give reasons why.
• Issue a call to action. These messages prepare people to rally behind an initiative.
• Reinforce organisational capability. These messages underscore the organisation’s strengths and are designed to make people feel good about the organisation.
• Create an environment in which motivation can occur. These messages provide reasons why things are done, and create a path for success for people to follow. They also describe the benefits of success.
• Promote a product or service. These messages place what the organisation produces within the mission, culture and values of the organisation.
The leadership messages set up a vision for the company or organisation. They are driven by an individual or a team. They provide a clear vision. Why are we here? What do we do or make? Why is our product or service unique? How can we deliver a better product or service?
1.3 THE TRAITS OF LEADERSHIP COMMUNICATION
Successful leadership communication must reflect the following traits. It must have:
• Significance. Messages that are about big issues in the present and future of the organisation (e.g. people, performance, products and services)
• Values. messages that reflect the vision, mission and culture of the organisation
• Consistency. Messages that exemplify the practical application of these stated values and behaviours
• Cadence. Messages that regularly reinforce these organisational aspirations.
1.4 A BRIEF SYNTHESIS OF THE TYPES OF LEADER- COMMUNICATORS
There are many types of leadership-communicator roles, but for our purposes, we are naming just a handful. It should be noted that these roles are not mutually exclusive, as the styles may occur in combination and may vary from situation to situation (Baldoni
2003). The information below is summarised from Baldoni (2003) and Mai and
Leader as expert
This type of leader-communicator possesses a high degree of specialised skill and/or knowledge. Communication is concerned with the facts and knowledge generation. Attributes include intelligence and experience in a certain area of the business environment, and the ability to grapple with complexity.
Leader as visionary
This type of leader-communicator is characterised by the ability to think about the future and its possibilities. Communication is shaped around translating an image of what the organisation could become, and the enlistment of others in that vision. Attributes include imagination and the ability to grasp, promote and translate ideas as they emerge.
Leader as meaning-maker
This type of leadership communication is concerned with managing the dialogue around the meaning of work. Leader- communicators communicate in ways that create focus, reinforce work identity, and increase feelings of significance. Attributes include a consciousness of how meaning may be acquired to make work positive and fulfilling, and how work identity may be shaped and influenced.
Leader as trust builder
This style of leadership communicator is primarily concerned with creating and sustaining trust. The aim is to support others in communicating in honest and credible ways. Attributes include the ability to admit uncertainty when it arises, manage dialogue, and the ability to express an interest in analysing failure, instead of ignoring it (for detailed discussion see Mai and Akerson 2003, chapter 5).
Leader as Navigator/Direction Setter
This style of leadership communication is about telling people what needs to be done. It is also about helping to steer the organisation towards its goals, desired outcomes and timelines. Attributes include an excellent ability to remain focused, provide instruction, make decisions and take the lead in problem solving when necessary (for detailed discussion see Mai and Akerson
2003, chapter 2).
This leadership communication role is preoccupied with managing the turbulence of change. The role functions to help people adjust or reposition in times of change. Attributes include a sound knowledge of change communication, empathy, and the ability to engage people in the process (for detailed discussion see Mai and Akerson 2003, chapter 7).
Leader as linking- agent
This style of leadership communication is concerned with the crossing of organisational boundaries in order to keep people connected. This style focuses upon establishing and supporting clear communication channels. Attributes include the ability to navigate information infrastructures and establish relationships.
Leader as mentor and coach
This type of leader-communicator understands what motivates individuals and provides support, reassurance and praise in communication. Leader-coaches are successful at adjusting their focus to address the needs of individuals, and well as the needs of the team. Attributes include excellent listening skills, integrity, and the ability to ask the right questions.
Leader as transformer
This type of leader-communicator is focused upon driving transformation and renewal. Attributes include the ability to provoke thoughts and fundamental assumptions that underpin the way we conduct business, intellectual rigor, and the ability to inspire (for detailed discussion see Mai and Akerson 2003, chapters 9–11).
REALITY CHECK: Follow this YouTube link to see an interview with Bill Winter about mentoring and coaching.
DISCUSSION POINT: Table 7.3 Characteristics of formal and Informal Mentoring on page 200 of the Dwyer text looks at different ways of mentoring. Can you identify some of these traits from within your own work experiences and identify some practices that
demonstrate these characteristics?
To lead people, walk beside them. As for best leaders — the people do not notice their existence. The next best — the people honour and praise them. The next — the people fear them and the next — the people hate them. When the best leaders work is done the people say, ‘We did that ourselves’. Lao Tsu, born circa 604BC
There are a number of leadership assessment tools available in the marketplace which approach leadership as a measurable, learnable and teachable set of behaviours and attributes (the Leadership Practices Inventory developed by Kouzes and Posner is one such example).
Of significance, the Australian Public Service has available a Senior Executive Leadership Capability (SELC) Framework which sets out the core leadership criteria for the sector. This framework is worth extensive consideration, as it is very detailed, and has been developed from the frontline.
1.5 DEFINITION OF MANAGEMENT
Management is the process of planning and coordinating work activities and tasks so that they are completed efficiently and effectively with and through other people. (Dwyer 2008, p. 250)
Although leadership and management have different meanings they often work in teams called Leadership Teams. After half a century of research there is a body of evidence on activities that are common to all or most managers.
• Acting as a figurehead, representative or point of contact for a work unit
• Monitoring and disseminating information
• Negotiating with broad constituency
• Planning and scheduling work
• Allocating resources to different work activities
• Directing and monitoring the work of subordinates
• Specific human resources management activities
• Problem solving and handling disturbances to work flow
• Innovating processes and products
• Technical work relating to the manager’s professional or functional specialisation.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a You Tube clip that talks about good managers and bad managers. Do the managers in your workplace have all of these skills or are they teamed up to cover all of these skill bases. How does that work, is communication
sometimes (or always) inconsistent?
1.6 ORGANISATIONAL MANAGEMENT
The first step in becoming an effective communication practitioner is to recognise that organisational communication, leadership communication and workplace culture are inextricably entwined.
If a business or organisation is committed to improving its communication effectiveness and leadership capacity, it will take into consideration not only the interrelated dimensions of organisational communication to inform the management of communication across the organisation, but also cultural management strategies to embed the type of communication climate it is aiming for. (Conrad 1990)
Overall, this is inseparable from the need to entrench a strategic approach to communication management.
These cultural management strategies will need to embrace the following key ideas:
• Cultures are created by communication. They emerge and are sustained by communication between employees. Therefore, attempting to interpret workplace culture is difficult as they are complex and constantly evolving.
• The day-by-day tasks and pressures lead people and work teams to develop their own ways of coping. As such, strategies to address communication weaknesses potentially need to consider differing subcultures across the organisation.
• Subsequently, these subcultures feed into the leadership communication attributes of an organisation. They may differ in how they value action learning, working in teams, risk taking, and performance feedback. In addition, members of subcultures may operate with different sets of myths and stories, metaphors and ceremonies to define and support themselves.
• Communicators may have to be aware of competing values, affecting and influencing individual and collective behaviour.
• If cultural management strategies to support communication effectiveness across the organisation are to achieve resonance, the strategies must also recognise the motivations and constraints for individuals within organisational situations (Conrad 1990, p. 78, refer to diagram below). These motivations and constraints are to some extent reflective of the interrelated dimensions of organisational communication (formal-structural, personal-interpersonal and power-political) and provide a useful framework
in which to plan and project communication and initiatives.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a clip looking into workplace culture.
DISCUSSION POINT: After watching the video above, did you know that culture in the workplace was such a significant part of leadership, management and communication?
FORMAL AND INFORMAL COMMUNUICATION
(Conrad 1990, p. 78)
Decision making processes
Barriers to information exchange
Individual Manager Communication
Informal rules and norms
Formal policies and procedures
Formal and informal reward systems
Other employee’s expectations and self-images
Effective cultural management strategies can only be built from positive cultural engagement through the management of collective uncertainties, the creation of social order and continuity, and the creation of a communal identity and commitment.
Cultural management and the promotion of communication effectiveness should be a common goal. It needs to happen from peer to peer as well as up, down and across organisations.
Leadership and management should be primarily driven on a day to day basis by carefully considered internal and external communication strategies, in which every aspect of the ‘culture’ of the organisation is examined and honed to best suit the organisation’s aims and objectives. It involves the practical application and analysis of messaging which we will discuss later in the Unit.
An organisation’s leadership, management styles and communication strategies are so interdependent that failure to meet and reflect the needs of any of these three elements often leads to failure, confusion and poor messaging and communication outcomes.
Communication, in all its forms, is the human face of an organisation. It is our thoughts, words, symbols, signs, body language, tone and message. It starts internally with our own thoughts and feelings and then our work colleagues and on to the outside world. It is what people see and hear. It is how they interpret and understand those messages that will form their opinions and actions.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a YouTube clip just because it is great fun — and nearly on topic!
Baldoni, J 2003, Great Communication Secrets of Great Leaders, McGraw Hill, USA.
Chartaris-Black, J 2006, The Communication of Leadership, Leadership and Metaphor
Beyond the West. Routledge, USA.
Conrad, C 1990, Strategic organisational communication: an integrated perspective.
2nd edn. Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, USA.
Dwyer, J 2009, Communication in Business Strategies and Skills, 4th edn, Pearson
Education Australia, French’s Forest, NSW.
Dwyer, J 2013, Communication for Business and the Professions, 5th edn, Pearson Education Australia, French’s Forest, NSW.
Johansen, M. Nine sources of Leadership influence, www.legacee.com
Mai, R & Akerson, A 2003 The Leader As Communicator: Strategies And Tactics To
Build Loyalty, Effort, And Spark Creativity. Amacom, USA.
Manktelow, J n.d. Understanding communication skills. Mindtools: Essential skills for a successful carreer. Accessed from:
Newman J.B 1960, Rationale definition of communication, Journal of Communication
Vol. 10, Iss. 3, published online 7 Feb 2006.
Northouse, P.G 2012, Leadership: Theory and Practice, 5th edition. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.
WEEK 2 BUSINESS AND PEOPLE
Key topics we cover this week are:
• An introduction to communication in its many forms
• A discussion about the importance of developing communication skills on a personal and business level in the context of local, national and global markets today.
By the end of Business and People we will be beginning to develop a framework for you to examine your own communication skills and of others around you in your workplace.
Textbook: Chapter 7, Communication across the Organisation, pp 154-179.
Bell, A.H. & Smith, D.M. 2010, Communication Architecture for Professional Success’. Management Communication, 3rd edition, John Wiley & Sons Hoboken, N.J. Chapter 1, pp 30–37.
Independent Learning Task 2
Select one of the following terms that you find most challenging:
‘verbal communication’, ‘non-verbal communication’ or ‘graphic communication’. Define the term and say why you find it challenging.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post before midnight on Sunday of Week 4.
Independent Learning Task — optional — just for fun!
Evaluate your communication skills on-line at:-
To communicate is to impart information. Any behaviour that transmits messages from one person to another person is communication.
Communication is any behaviour — verbal, nonverbal or graphic — that is perceived by another. Knowledge, feelings or thoughts are encoded and sent from at least one other person and received and decoded by at least one other. Meaning is given to this message as the receiver interprets the message. A connection is made between the people communicating. (Dwyer 2013, p. 4)
Communication is the expression of your feelings, ideas and perceptions:
• Verbally and nonverbally. Body language and position, movement, facial expression or tone.
• In writing. Both internal and external consumption
• Graphically. Including PowerPoint and other presentation formats, video, signs, symbols, shapes, graphs and diagrams.
The ability to communicate is learned, and is affected by social, business and wider cultural influences. ‘People cannot not communicate, even when we ignore the other person, something is communicated’ (Waltzawick, Beavin & Jackson 1967).
2.1 DIFFERENT TYPES OF COMMUNICATION
• Intrapersonal. Within yourself, your thoughts and feelings
• Interpersonal. Between two people in a small group. This could be on a one-to-one basis, usually in sight of each other but not necessarily e.g. telephone, e-mail or letter.
• Team interaction among people with a common objective. This is normally within sight of each other, but can be teleconferencing, e-mail discussion groups, blogs and business directed social media formats.
• Organisational. Communication within a more complex system of groups with a common aim.
• Public. One source (normally an organisation) makes contact with a number of outside groups or organisations e.g. public relations OR a person or small group communicates with a larger group of people in the same location e.g. a speech, seminar or lecture.
• Mass. Use of mass media to contact large numbers of distant people e.g. advertising, television, editorial or social media formats and more.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the link below to a YouTube clip that provides more detail about different types of communication. Were you aware of these types? Do you think you have skills to work and manage within these communication skill bases?
In the business environment, good communication uses a mix of interpersonal, group communication, written, oral, audio-visual and social media forms to send an integrated and consistent message. Good communication skills can be developed, transferred and applied to a wide range of personal, professional and occupational situations.
‘Employers expect their staff to be competent in a wide range of communication tasks including:
• Communicating with people from different backgrounds, experiences and cultures
• Organising ideas and information into knowledge for use by self and others
• Expressing and presenting ideas and information accurately and persuasively
• Listening to understand others and take actions based on that understanding
• Using communication technologies efficiently and effectively
• Communicating professionally and ethically’. (Dwyer 2009, p. 4).
In many organisations today, the communication practitioner is required to mentor and train staff and management to develop their skill bases around these tasks. They need to be effective two-way communicators.
Two — way communication:
• Is audience centred
• Uses clear messages to exchange ideas and receive and give good feedback
• Is persuasive
• Projects the organisations image and cultural ethos
• Uses a variety of communication channels
• Build relationships
• Gathers information
• Applies ethical practices
(Dwyer 2013, pp 4-5)
Additionally, today’s businesses need to communicate locally, nationally and globally every day.
There are a number of reasons:
• To stay competitive. By adapting to the needs of the market place and promote your products and services as widely as possible in local, national and international markets
• To engage with changing technology. In the last twenty years, we have all been part of an information technology revolution where communication can be instantaneous and delivered across a range of new electronic platforms. This is best demonstrated by the evolution of Web 2.0 and with
the growing power of social media. Cross-generationally, people are sourcing their information well outside traditional formats. Mail is now universally called ‘snail mail’. Printed materials, newspapers and even television now compete for the attention of the public in a ways that would have be unimaginable fifty years ago.
• To meet the challenges of a changing economy. In the last few decades, the world economy has become globalised. We have experienced a move from primary and secondary industrial bases (agriculture and manufacturing) towards tertiary or service bases e.g. education, entertainment, finance and tourism. This means there is an increasing emphasis on accessing, interpreting and distributing information so communication has quite suddenly more important than ever. Many smaller businesses now use the Web to directly access global markets. They are able to succeed in niche markets because of lower operational costs and the ability to understand and react quickly to change.
• To grow their leadership and management skills. The number of smaller companies marketing to and servicing clients and customers is rising. Workers in small organisations need to be multi-skilled and flexible. This means that communication has changed in many companies from a top down model to differing versions of vertical, horizontal/lateral communication models to best meet the needs of the organisation. This directly impacts on leadership and management styles.
• To grow interpersonal skills. Even in larger companies, the workforce is becoming more independent, responsive and self-managed. On a personal level, workers need highly developed communication skills to cope with enterprise bargaining, individual contracts and constant evaluation. You have to promote yourself in the workplace and communication skills are
DISCUSSION POINT: Reflect on the organisations you have worked for. Do they adhere to the basic tenets of communication described above or not? How do they fail and how do they succeed? Do you think management in these organisations perceive that internal and external day to day communications may have a significant effect on
how they are seen by their workers and clients?
Many people are also choosing to work as sole traders or on a consultancy basis, often from home, and they are totally dependent for effective communication through using new technology.
Bigger, modern organisations now place greater emphasis on group and teamwork. Even here, management structures are flattening out, resulting in an organisational structure that is horizontal rather than vertical.
Workers need greater awareness and need to be functional and effective communicators. It is the role of the communication practitioner to be aware of what is
happening within their organisations and to shape practice to achieve the best communication outcomes.
In all of these scenarios, the relationship between leadership, management and communication practice has become paramount. No matter what sort of enterprise you are engaged in, it is important have these three vital components of business are in balance across all your internal and external communication.
The successful organisation is the one that communicates effectively across the diverse range of people both within and outside the organisation. Increasingly organisations are interacting nationally and globally with other individuals, clients, suppliers and organisations. Effective business communication bridges the different perspectives of people with diverse life and career experiences by sharing meanings and building understanding (Dwyer 2009, p. 8).
2.2 TYPES OF ORGANISATIONS
Mechanistic organisations communicate in a highly structured way, and make considerable use of charts, rules, policies, manuals, guidelines and job descriptions. These days, you may start a job with up to a week of orientation programming where you are taken from the Vision Statement, Corporate Strategy Documents, Policy Manuals, Codes of Conduct, Workplace Health and Safety, Quality Assurance and corporate style guides across a whole range of organisational requirements. It’s quite important to take a backpack on your first days as you will be loaded up with paper work!
The classical mechanistic organisation demonstrates a hierarchical structure with a predominantly top down leadership, management and communication style. It might be seen in the public sector as well as long established companies and organisations where it has historically ingrained itself in the work culture. Let’s not diminish its power
— not everyone wants to be a decision maker. It exists because it suits the needs of the organisation and it works. A hospital won’t last long if everyone can diagnose an illness. Food outlets like Macdonald’s and Pizza Hut demonstrate mechanistic structures because they really just want workers to deliver the same product in the same time frame every time — and so do fast food consumers.
Organic organisations are dynamic and flexible in their communication, and relatively informal with communication taking place between all levels.
Google is an excellent example of an organic structure. Douglas Merrill, Senior
Director at Google describes how it works.
For Google information is “enlightenment” (not power) and the entire organization is compelled to give “freely and learn from each other,” using “abundant data and computational resources to change the way people learn and work. (Farber 2005)
Google works within a structure they call cloud management. The idea being that the entire organisation is structured to be able to transform itself quickly to exploit any new opportunity or weather any storm.
Neither mechanistic nor organic organisations can claim the ‘high moral ground’. Often, it can be a mix. The real issue for you as a communication practitioner within an organisation is to know what is really going on and how best to manage the
personalities and work culture you are working with.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a YouTube clip that details differences between Mechanistic and Organic organisational structures. Reflect on how these structures relate to the different organisations you have experienced. Can you identify those that are mechanistic and those that are organic? More importantly, can you identify any that are in transition from mechanistic towards organic? Is this working or is causing internal conflict?
2.3 HOW DO WE COMMUNICATE?
This is not an easy question to answer. The answer seems simple — many people communicate without even thinking about it.
We communicate by:
• Words (spoken, sung or written)
• How we speak (the tone and volume of our voice)
• How we stand/sit (our posture and body movement) and
• Facial expressions and
• Through signs, symbols and images.
Many times we even communicate very effectively by what we don’t say or respond to. We can communicate face-to-face or via a technological intermediary (emails, Web,
social media, telephone), even editorially or through advertising, television and radio
and other media.
As discussed earlier, when we start looking for an all-encompassing definition of how we communicate, it’s not so easy. You end up with something vague and general.
In summary, Communication is any activity or message, verbal or non-verbal, which is perceived by any person and has meaning for that person. Everything we do or say is communication — it’s impossible to not communicate. Even saying or doing nothing can send a message. Communication is vital to human survival and development. It binds communities together and is the substance of our culture. It plays a major role in all human activity and is central to our economic subsistence.
Communication is a dynamic and interactive process. As people respond, interpret and modify messages, they not only use their intellect to place meaning and structure on a variety of messages received but they also
respond emotionally and use their perceptual skills in this interaction. (Dwyer 2009, p.12).
For organisations to survive in an increasingly competitive and information-oriented environment, they need communication practitioners who speak, write and interact with others efficiently, effectively and professionally. These practitioners need also to be observing, listening, mapping, surveying, training, mentoring, supporting and adapting good communication practice. Over the range of business units offered, you will be able to develop these techniques. Should we mention that even if you aren’t employed specifically as the ‘communication practitioner’ in an organisation, you are still a communicator and all of these ideas matter if you are to be effective and ultimately,
‘The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.’ Peter Drucker
OTHER ACADEMIC SOURCES
Listed below are the names of areas of study as well as academic and other writers who have written useful texts around this week’s topic. This list may help you source more information. Try the Griffith Library or other academic search engines like Google Scholar.
Professor Armand Mattelart, Historian and sociologist of communication
Mattelart helps us understand communication in the context of those big ideas about modern society, including the invention of communication.
Professor Graeme Osborne, University of Canberra
The historical background to communication between Australia and the rest of the world.
Jennifer Craik, RMIT
Explores the mass communication and analyses the War of the Worlds radio broadcast.
Troy Innocent, Digital artist, Monash University
Explores the human response to technology and the role of interactivity in his artwork, Iconic, he uses symbols and iconic language to describe an entirely new world — a space for new forms of communication, which doesn’t attempt to simulate real life.
The semiotic approach sees communication as a mutual negotiation of meaning rather than a linear transfer of messages from transmitter to receiver. The notion of ‘meaning- construction’ has been influential in the study of media and communication. What exactly did the semiotic theorists Saussure, Peirce and Barthes mean? What are ‘the sign’, ‘the signifier’ and ‘the signified’?
Margaret Peters, University of South Australia
Discusses communication in the workplace.
Kim Anderson, Niemen’s, Director of marketing and content
How is the growth of e-commerce affecting the relationship between business and customers? How does the growth of e-commerce affect the relationship between business and customers?
Matthew Allen, Curtin University of Technology
How communication technology transforms who we are.
Diana Eades, Forensic Linguist
Language and communication practices of the court. Her analysis of what went on in one Queensland courtroom led to the release of a convicted woman. She explains what happens when people coming before the court don’t understand what’s being said.
Rod Olney, News Room Channel Ten
An example of how critical theories of narrative illuminate the news process and its products — how the news might be ‘read’.
Derham Groves, Monash University
Television in people’s lives.
Tara Lemmey, President, Electronic Frontier Foundation
As information goes digital, it becomes increasingly easy to access personal information. The rise in computer surveillance has also fuelled concerns about online privacy and security. Electronic Frontier Foundation is actively monitoring these changes in cyberspace.
Gladys Genley, Historian of the alternative uses of technology
The use of personal, rather than mass media.
Dwyer, J 2009, Communication in Business Strategies and Skills, 4th edition, Pearson Education Australia.
Dwyer, J 2013 Communication for Business and the Professions, Strategies and Skills 5th edition
Farber, D 2005, Between the lines – A view into Google’s inner works. www.zdnet.com
Waltzawick, P, Beavin, J.H & Jackson, DD 1967, Pragmatics of Human Communication, Norton, USA
WEEK 3 COMMUNICATION AS A PROCESS
Key topics we will cover this week are:
• The development and evolution of communication models
• The emergence of the Cultural model in response to globalisation and multiculturalism
• How information flows (or fails to flow) across organisations.
Textbook: Chapter 1, Communication Foundations, pp 5-18.
Textbook: Chapter 2, Social Media, pp 24-31.
Independent Learning Task 3
Pages 8-11 (7th edn) and 7-10 (6th edn) of the Dwyer textbook detail specific models of communication. Read through these models and identify one of the following models from your own experiences of interacting with organisations: Transmission Model, Process Model, or a Cultural Model. Tell us how and why you made your choices by listing some of the model’s characteristics there were evident in your example.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post before midnight on Sunday of Week 5.
This week, we move into ways in which communication has been deconstructed and analysed starting around 1949 until today. These models represent a movement towards a scientific approach to communication. They are constantly evolving to meet current needs and the challenges of globalisation, the revolution in technology and multiculturalism.
These models are essential to learning and understanding communication, because they provide a benchmark against which all communication may be observed and delivered. As you go forward in this Unit, you will be asking yourself questions such as,
‘what was the message I sent, why was it received that way, what interfered with understanding, what made noise so that my message was only partially interpreted.’ It is an eye, ear and mind opener.
The seven main elements in the communication process are sender, message, receiver, feedback, channel, context or setting, noise and interference. (Dwyer 2013, p. 6)
Messages are continually encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver. This is perpetual and as natural as breathing.
Figure 1.1 may well be the most important graphic in Dwyer’s text (2013, p. 6) as it succeeds in laying out the interactive process that is communication.
Below I will paraphrase Dwyer’s seven elements of communication:
1. SENDER: It all starts here. The sender initiates the communication. Each of us has unique perspectives of ourselves, our culture and our place but in this course we hope to help you learn skills and that will assist you to interpret and filter experiences. Through examining communication we will encourage you to know more about yourself so that you can listen and respond to others.
2. MESSAGE: this is the symbol, sign, words, movement, tone of voice, inflection, rate and pitch of your speech, facial expression, touching or body movement that is sent — either to be understood or misunderstood.
3. RECEIVER: This is the decoder of the message. It may be one person or many and there can be many forms that each individual decodes the Message. It is getting complex!
4. FEEDBACK: This is the decoded response. It is the vehicle through which communication is continued. The receiver decodes the message and encodes a response and so on towards understanding or failure.
5. CHANNEL: How is the message sent? By web or email, or in a strategic conversation, or informally. What method is used? Obviously, messages can be (and are often) sent using a combination of channels.
6. CONTEXT: This is the situation or setting. It has three dimensions — physical, social-psychological and temporal (it’s meaning in terms of the sequence of events or messages surrounding it).
7. NOISE AND INTERFERENCE: Any and all communication barriers that distort the interpretation or understanding of the message.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the links to YouTube clips that talk about communication and models. Though it uses some American terminology it is a good resource.
3.1 MODELS OF COMMUNICATION
Since the 1940s, communication researchers have been developing models. The first point that Dwyer makes about models is most pertinent to this Unit.
Models and diagrammatic representations of how communication works illustrates different views of the process by which people transfer meaningful information. These representations cannot be regarded as a complete guide: they take the elements that are seen as most significant in the process and place them in an ordered pattern. Their purpose is to explain and clarify essential features and regularities in the process. (Dwyer 2013, p. 9)
Let’s deconstruct these ideas some more:
• The models follow a chronological line and very much reflect workplace cultures and societal trends of their time. For example, the Shannon and Weaver model created in 1949, models a workplace where communication was fairly uniformly top down, the organisational structure was hierarchical and mechanistic. Leadership styles were ‘Command and Control’. In other words, most workplace worked on the basis of you were told what to do and you did just that without question. It was the last remnants of the Industrial revolution where Labour was treated like a part of the machinery.
• Many organisations today intermittently demonstrate a hybrid version of a few models — sometimes mechanistic and top down and on other occasions more organic with a much flatter management style.
• The communication practitioner’s role is to listen, observe and interpret what is really happening in their workplace and work towards adding consistency.
• Keep in mind that all current theorising maintains that Leadership style, management style and communication are inexorably intertwined. If one aspect is weak — all may fail — and any such fail will directly affect the bottom line.
The Transmission Models
Early communication analysts, like Shannon and Weaver, looked at communication as a process. There are different ways of describing the process, but it’s useful to begin with some pretty basic terms that we can use as a kind of shorthand. We will use these terms throughout the Unit, so everyone doing the subject knows what we are talking about.
The transmission model of communication can involve a degree of transaction, interaction and sharing of meaning, but basically communication is seen as instrumentalist. This model is one-way — communication is an instrument for getting the receiver to understand, absorb, be influenced or persuaded by the message conveyed by the sender. Developed in 1949, it is very much a product and companion to leadership and management styles of that era which could be characterised as top down — hence it’s one way technique.
The effectiveness of communication is measured by the similarity of message in the minds of the sender and the receiver.
The Process Models
The original transmission model of communication has been developed and refined over the years. From this has emerged the process model, which shows communication as a two-way, interactive process.
The process model of communication has seven elements, broadly similar to the transmission model. This can be represented diagrammatically
The sender conveys a message, verbal or non-verbal, to the receiver, who then interprets the message. This interpretation is affected by the receiver’s perception of the message which, in turn, is determined by the receiver’s culture, background, experiences and beliefs.
The receiver then responds to the message (feedback), which indicates how well the message has been understood, and continues the communication.
Communication happens in a certain place and time (context) and may be affected by interference. In this model, interference is any barrier raised as creating clear, unambiguous communication.
This may include, for example:
• Lack of attention to, or honing of, message
• Receiver inattention — wrong place, wrong time
• Poor collateral materials
• Cultural difference
• Any disconnection from prevailing leadership and management styles and/or any lack of cohesion.
The Cultural Models
Most modern models of communication show that communication can’t be artificially
‘extracted’ from the culture. It is an integral part of our culture/s.
What do we mean by culture? Culture is made up of the values, basic assumptions, beliefs and practices of a group — all the routines and rituals that we pass on to the next generation. There has to be a certain amount of ‘common’ culture (i.e. a sharing of certain values, rules, etc.). But ‘our’ culture is becoming more and more changeable, diverse and fragmented, giving rise to the potential for contestation and difference. Different groups have competing meanings and values, for example, bosses and workers, developers and conservationists.
This means of communicating is more complex and challenging than simply having a sender conveying a successful message to the receiver. Cultural diversity and ambiguity of messaging are hallmarks of our culture and the business world is in no
way immune to them. Indeed, I believe we all have experiences of these communication breakdowns in both our personal and business lives.
At a practical level, we should be more aware of the contexts of the communication process: the context in which the sender operates (background, beliefs, attitudes etc.) plus the context in which the receiver interprets the message (receiver’s background etc.),and we have to hone our message to create successful communication of our message with the receiver/s.
Since perception significantly influences communication it is useful to look closely at it. Each person selects, organises and interprets their sensory impressions of their environment. Selection is the art of attending to certain stimuli in the environment while ignoring others. In the perception process, people also organise the stimuli selected in order to create meaning, relationships and patterns (Dwyer 2009, p.13).
We have to be aware of, work with, and allow for differences, and diverse interpretations of messages. And we need to be more aware of the emotional aspects of communication — receivers may be reacting immediately and emotionally to what we might consider is our rational, common sense message. Most business organisations, especially the bigger ones, consist of a range of people from different sub-cultures. This must be acknowledged in order to gain cohesion or common purpose among those subgroups.
The business manager can’t simply give orders or instructions and expect everyone to immediately obey or understand. Many managers can’t understand why they are not communicating effectively. Awareness of context — particularly cultural context — may help overcome the problem.
The success of a manager as a communicator often relies on how they shape the message to meet the particular needs of the receivers. It is a very important ‘big picture’ issue within organisations and one in which the communication practitioner has a role as a potential mentor and trainer — through listening and observing, mapping and surveying receiver responses.
One extreme of this cultural approach argues that successful communication can only occur between members of a cultural sub-group and that communication is more likely to fail when there are fundamental differences between sub-groups. But is this a return to tribalism with inward-looking groups that are hostile to each other? Surely there can still be some common ground — an agreement on the basic rules or laws so that
society can still function within change and diversity.
3.2 INFORMATION FLOWS
Getting the right information flow is important, and getting it right is a lot easier if you understand how it works. There are four directions in which communication can flow in an organisation:
1. Downwards Information flows from the top down to lower levels in the organisation. This information tends to be mainly instructions, directions and guidelines.
2. Upwards Information flows from the lower levels of an organisation to higher managerial levels. This can be overlooked in some organisations, but it is a vital source of information for managers. Non-supportive supervisors and lack of listening skills in management can cause problems.
3. Horizontal Communication at the same level throughout the organisation, for example between departments or sections. It can be formal (meetings, forms) or informal (telephone calls, conversations at the coffee machine).
4. Lateral Communication between a lower level of an organisation and a higher one across areas of authority. For example, the head of one division may communicate directly with a supervisor from another division about something, which will then be put to the head of the supervisor’s own division. Such discussions should be carried out openly and with permission, to prevent any possible barriers to effective
communication building up.
Some organisational characteristics can cause communication problems or barriers within these information flows. Problems can happen when:
• Management is too centralised. Rigid and unbending hierarchies may provide strong leadership, but they can also stifle information flows, especially upwards.
• There are too many management layers. This almost inevitably leads to more time being spent in formal communication, slowing every decision
• The structure of the organisation is too complicated. Complex organisations have complex communication. Complexity by definition can be difficult to penetrate, resulting in too much information in circulation all the time. Really important matters are often over looked and there is a very real chance that informal ways of shortcutting complex procedures will develop. Needless to say, these coffee clubs, smoker’s groups and generalized gossip networks can often become a real issue for successful communication.
The study of communication models need to be kept in the context that they are measures and benchmarks against which to measure the effectiveness of your messaging. Their progress and evolution over the last sixty years has been as dynamic as the workplace itself — as even small businesses move confidently from cottage
industries into the global market place.
What I write is different from what I say, what I say is different from what I think, what I think is different from what I ought to think and so it goes further into the deepest darkness. Franz Kafka
Interpretations of interpretations interpreted. James Joyce
OTHER ACACEMIC SOURCES
Listed below are the names of areas of study as well as academic and other writers who have written useful texts around this week’s topic. This list may help you source more information. Try the Griffith Library or other academic search engines like Google Scholar.
Glenn Lewis, University of Canberra
The Shannon and Weaver model of communication.
Merrelyn Bates, Griffith University
Communication models in the social sciences.
Terry Flew, Queensland University of Technology
Communication studies in universities and how they relate to the ‘Information Society’.
Judith Lye, Buddhist meditator
An insight into Buddhist culture; the importance of the roles of silence and meditation.
Frank Stootman, Physicist
The ultimate cross-cultural communication challenge — the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence being conducted from the University of Western Sydney.
Laura Miller, Editor, online magazine Salon
Can technology be used to disseminate culture?
David West, Australia National University
One of the roles of communication common to all models is the conveying of information out into the public sphere, a concept first described by Jurgen Habermas.
Psychology and Organisational Behaviour
The discipline of Psychology has contributed significantly to our understanding of organisational communication.
Source and read an article about Group Behaviour and Organisational Culture.
MODULE 2: INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION
WEEK 4 INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION
Key topics to be covered this week are:
• Critically analyse the roles of individual components in the communication process: emotional intelligence, non-verbal communication, active listening, versatility, assertiveness and responsiveness.
• Begin to identify the strengths and weakness in your own interpersonal communication style.
• Discussing tools and techniques to assist you to build up your skill base around interpersonal communication.
Textbook: Chapter 4, Emotional Intelligence: Managing Self and Relationships, pp 79-89.
Textbook: Chapter 3, Interpersonal Communication, pp 46-72.
The following reading has been supplied in your Dossier of Readings book to accompany this module.
Guffey, ME 2008, ‘Developing Team, Listening and Etiquette Skills’. Business Communication: Process and Product, 6th edition. Mason, OHIO: South-Western Cengage Learning. Chapter 2, pp 50–61.
Independent Learning Task 4
On page 58 (7th edn) and pag 81 (6th edn) of the Dwyer text you will find Table 3.1 which illustrates five basic traits of emotional intelligence. Read them careful and then give yourself a rating out of ten as to your own competency and explain why you gave yourself that mark.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post before midnight on Sunday of Week 6.
Interacting with other people seems to be one of the most spontaneous parts of everyday life. This doesn’t mean you can overlook or ignore interpersonal communication in your role as communicator. The fact that interpersonal communication is commonplace and ‘ordinary’ should not discourage us from trying to build upon our skills base. In fact, part of your communicator role would be to mentor and perhaps provide training for managers around these skills. Often, content experts become managers. They know all there is to know about how to create the product. However this in no way qualifies them as good people managers and communicators. Again, you need to be listening, observing, supporting and building skill bases for successful communication at all levels within the organisation.
Today’s employers are looking for more than a person’s technical or business expertise, experience and educational background. They are seeking individuals who are emotionally able to utilise emotions to guide thinking in personal interactions and to withstand the pressures of the work.
(Dwyer 2013, p. 67)
DISCUSSION POINT: Many of you will have worked with managers who are masters of content but, sadly have tragic communication skills. Share some of your stories about what goes wrong and how it impacts on both understanding and productivity.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the YouTube link below. Although it’s an ad, it covers a lot of issues about where we are going this week.
4.1 EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotional intelligence is a different way of being smart. It includes knowing what your feelings are and using your feelings to make decisions in life. (Goleman 1998)
Goleman says emotional intelligence has four domains — self-awareness and self- management as internalised personal skills. Plus social awareness and relationship management which covers our abilities to be empathetic and to be a team player, collaborating, influencing and communicating with others in the workplace.
Emotional intelligence starts with emotional awareness. Heini states:
At its highest level, it means being able to predict our feelings in advance. (Hein www.eqi.org/aware.htm)
Emotional awareness encompasses connecting with, acknowledging, identifying, accepting, reflecting and forecasting feelings.
This involves examining how you see yourself, how comfortable you are in different situations about revealing feelings, your own self-esteem and your own levels of self- regulation and self-motivation.
Emotional Intelligence is a relatively new term, but this is ancient wisdom.
Developing a rapport with people you communicate with often depends on some or all of the factors above.
Some people are more extroverted, gregarious and friendly, but this doesn’t mean that more introverted or shy people aren’t successful interpersonal communicators. The most important things are knowing yourself and being true to yourself. Being sincere and natural is much more appealing than pretending to be someone you are not.
Be aware that everyone else you communicate with also brings their own levels of self- awareness into the communication loop and we can begin to understand the intense levels of complexity that can interfere with successful communication.
Techniques for building a good rapport also depend on the context or situation of the communication, especially the rules associated with the situation. For example, each of the following has a different set of rules and different appropriate behaviours:
• Length of relationship
• Level of intimacy
• Power, status
• Professional or private relationship.
There are no fixed or universal rules, and the rules can be inhibiting. For example, people may learn to be agreeable, unassertive or fearful of confrontation, resulting from gender, diversity or a wide range of cultural mores. This learning can be unhealthy reactions to negative experiences.
It sounds simplistic — yet we learn to be more effective communicators by listening to and observing others, learning from ‘role models’ in real life and through media.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the YouTube link below to a very good discussion of the true role of self-management and emotional intelligence.
Assertive behaviour acknowledges an individual’s rights as well as others to have ‘their voice’ heard. It is a behaviour that builds upon honesty, empathy and comfort. It is the active expression of self-awareness and challenges our commitment to equity and emotional intelligence values.
Aggressive behaviour is about winning at all costs. It often evokes anger and conflict in an often singlehanded attempt to entirely control outcomes. It rarely involves active listening or observation other than to gain advantage in an adversarial manner.
Submissive behaviour often results from being unable to make your ‘voice heard’. Often it is a natural ‘fight or flight’ response to aggressive behaviours.
An assertive person can be able:
• to make requests
• to actively and constructively disagree
• to express positive or negative feelings
• to stand up for personal rights
• to stand up for people without personally attacking another
• to initiate, maintain or disengage from conversations.
Being assertive is different to being aggressive. To be assertive is to respond appropriately to what your emotional intelligence is telling you without infringing on the rights of others.
Assertiveness is not insincere, apologetic or passive, and always allows room for compromise. With interpersonal communication often the best outcome is based on a consensus position — perhaps only then can you be sure as a communicator that you
‘heard every voice’ in the room.
4.3 NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION
Non-verbal communication (NVC) is an important aspect of interpersonal communication. It is every part of communication that does not exist as words — spoken or written. It is the subconscious rather than conscious.
Surprisingly, research has established that 35% of meaning comes from words and
65% from the non-verbal elements (Dwyer 2009, p. 93).
It is that part of the message that is not put into words. It includes:
• Kinesics — gesture and body movement (face or eyes, body language, posture, eye movement)
• Haptics — touch (hitting, handshakes, pat on the shoulder)
• Proxemics — personal space. When people get close, it can be a sign of intimacy, but if we feel they are too close, it becomes threatening
behaviour. Keeping someone ‘at arm’s length’ may be a way of gaining and maintaining control of a situation.
• Paralanguage — voice. Not the words, but the way they are spoken i.e. the pitch, tone, volume.
• Context or environment. The location in which communication takes place can have a considerable effect.
• Artefacts — this includes items like the colours and patterns of the clothes we wear, makeup, scent, glasses and badges. These all contribute to the impression that we give, and may set the tone of any communication.
There are three types of non-verbal communication:
• Personal to the individual. We all develop our own unique NVC’s, such as our style of dress, eye contact or not and a myriad of others.
• Cultural. We can develop NVC according to the culture within which we are brought up or work. Cultural groups may be determined by age, gender, nationality etc. and each group will influence its members in their choice and interpretation of NVCs.
• Universal. Some NVCs are common to humankind such as a smile or tears.
Generally speaking, verbal language expresses thoughts and attitudes while NVC expresses feelings and emotions and is less conscious. NVC usually reinforces what is being said, but can also contradict it — this is the principle on which the lie detector test is based. Where the spoken message and NVC are at odds, it is the NVC that tends to be believed.
The study and interpretation of NVC is not an exact science. It can be ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. NVCs should always be interpreted in the context of your own self-knowledge (emotional intelligence) and through observation and active
DISCUSSION POINT: On page 73 of the text, you will see a graphic called Self- evaluate your skills: Assertive, Aggressive and Submissive Nonverbal behaviour. Answer yes to which trait might be your most common reaction and tell us what you have learnt from taking the test.
4.4 ACTIVE LISTENING SKILLS
Active listening is an important aspect of communication.
Active listening isn’t ‘natural’ listening’. It takes attention and we need to work at it.
This can be best explained by understanding the difference between hearing and listening in the context of a communicator. Consider hearing to be passive where we only ‘take home’ what we want from a discussion and active listening to be active process where we are ‘awake’ to what we are feeling, hearing, seeing and understanding.
While hearing is a passive process, listening is a five stage conscious, knowing response to a message in which the listener hears sounds, interprets those sounds and attaches meaning to the sounds in the message:
Stage 1 Receiving the verbal and nonverbal messages
Stage 2 Understanding the speaker’s thoughts and emotions
Stage 3 Remembering and retaining the message
Stage 4 Evaluating and judging the message
Stage 5 Responding or reacting to the message. (Dwyer 2013, p. 40).
REALITY CHECK: Follow this YouTube link to a good discussion about active listening skills.
Active listening allows you to articulate valid feedback and correctly assess the emotional climate in the room. Real messages will only emerge through an understanding of the emotions that are underpinning the exchange — for both the speaker and the listener. Techniques include attentive, encouraging and reflective listening to tease out meaning.
At an interpersonal level, we are often more interested in talking than listening (the
‘yes, but’ phenomenon). We sometimes only take in a few words or gestures and it is these that immediately catch our attention. Often, we race to judgment without observing all of the cues and information available. It is quite natural to do this, and that is why communication practitioners need to be constantly honing their active listening techniques and evaluating all the messages being sent and received.
Listening actively involves:
• Making eye contact with the speaker without being intimidating
• Adopting positive body movements such as nodding, but avoiding fiddling with objects and wriggling about
• Making affirmative noises (e.g. yes, I see) where appropriate
• Ignoring or removing distractions
• Using posture to show interest e.g. face the speaker, lean forward slightly
• Giving feedback that reflects the content and feelings in the message.
Take the time to put active listening into the context of communication models and it is easy to see the important role it plays in the complex task of sending and receiving messages potentially affecting sender, receiver, message, channel, feedback and context.
4.5 RESPONSIVENESS AND FEEDBACK
A responsive communicator is defined as someone who is engaging their emotional intelligence and active listening skills to meet the aims and objectives of the organisation.
• Identify and interpret non-verbal cues about other people’s feelings
• Understand the feelings within the message as well as understanding its basic concepts through engaging your emotional intelligence in the discussion.
• Pick up and respond to the meaning of the message — sent and received.
• Explore and communicate their understanding of the message to other people — ask them if they can tell you what they are feeling and hearing.
To maintain a balanced view, they avoid becoming over-involved retaining a certain degree of objectivity and distance. They understand that in order to be able to understand and respond to the feelings of others they must sometimes detach themselves from their personal feelings. Detachment is not lack of empathy. It is the ability to detach from your own feelings in order to understand others. Interestingly, it is a practice that forms a cornerstone of meditative practice within Eastern philosophies.
In Western practices, communication practitioners have used transactional analysis as a simple method of determining the roles we take on in our communication. We may be:
The Parent Authoritarian moralistic, judgmental, supportive
The Adult Rational, realistic, seeking clarification
The Child Playful, demanding instant gratification, rebellious, seeking guidance
These roles are flexible and don’t reflect a person’s age or status. They are roles that we all play in the communication process. Each has its own value at varying appropriate times. A versatile communicator can move between these roles as necessary to facilitate communication.
Page 51 of the Dwyer text contains Figure 2.2 Characteristics of effective feedback. This is an excellent summary of responsiveness through the use of constructive feedback. Responsiveness is a learned skill. It needs regular practice. Like comedy, it is all in the timing. In practice, it is just know these characteristics that is important it is performing them. Responsiveness must be real and timely to work, but it we are all seeking understanding and acknowledgement of our ideas to create self-motivation
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a short YouTube video that puts responsiveness and constructive feedback in a 1 minute nutshell.
4.6 RECORDING AND MAPPING
Make sure you record or even map responses. A useful tool here is a relationship map. Who are friends? Who are in cliques? Who are the outsiders? Who are the opinion makers? How does information find its way around the organisation?
Do people read their emails in a timely manner or is better to join the morning coffee club and get responses from one end to the other by lunch? Only you are in the position as the communication practitioner to make these calls.
This sort of level of analysis will help you understand what is really happening and we will be providing you with some further surveying and mapping tools later in this unit.
Communication is happening all the time. Through the application of emotional intelligence, empathy, non-verbal cues, active listening, assertiveness and responsiveness, the communicator becomes ‘awake’ to what is going on around them. Many Eastern philosophies use the terms awake and asleep to refer to an individual’s state of enlightenment. Only through knowing yourself can you know others.
– inscribed into the pronaos of the Temple of Apollo –
built 7th Century BC
OTHER ACACEMIC SOURCES
Listed below are the names of areas of study as well as academic and other writers who have written useful texts around this week’s topic. This list may help you source more information. Try the Griffith Library or other academic search engines like Google Scholar.
Chris Marsden, University of Warwick
Interpersonal communication is increasingly being mediated by technology.
Howard Rheingold, Member of ‘The Well’
Is ‘real’ interpersonal communication being superseded by virtual communication? Howard Rheingold became a member of ‘The Well’, one of the first online communities in the US, in 1985.
Bob McChesney, University of Wisconsin
Activists in any field have to be assertive.
Dr Michael Georgeff, Director, Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute
Can virtual environments allow responsiveness? Dr Georgeff sees it as an immersive experience, that technology is merely an illusion. Artificial intelligence gives computers a life of their own.
Mark Balnaves, Murdoch University
Many types of communication have had to adapt to new technology. An example is the paperless office
Dean Seaman, University of Virginia
In a dramatic example of communication versatility, rare and valuable documents, Assets and books are being digitised and put online.
Goleman, D 1998, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books USA. Hein, S n.d. Emotional Awareness, www.eqi.org/aware.htm
MODULE 3: TEAMS AND ORGANISATIONAL MAPPING
WEEK 5 INTRODUCTION TO TEAM DYNAMICS
Key topics we will cover this week are:
• Developing skills around working in teams
• Examining how to integrate an understanding of emotional intelligence and communication modelling into your day to day routine
• Gaining some useful tools to help you observe, map and survey your workplace from a communications perspective
Textbook: Chapter 9, Team and Work Group Communication, pp 209-232.
Independent Learning Task 5
Next time you find yourself in a decision making meeting whether
at work or in your personal life identify the following member profiles:
• The friendly helper
• The tough battler
• The logical thinker
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post before midnight on Sunday of Week 7.
Communication is so integral to our daily lives that it sounds simplistic to make a statement like ‘communications is the tool we use to enjoy working together.’ Yet, it is true. Many times people decide to stay in a job because they feel welcome, respected and comfortable. Many of us will have worked happily in a place, then a different set of circumstances, management or leadership comes along and the workplace rapidly becomes unhappy and destabilised. Many practitioners talk about toxic workplaces where staff turnover is through the roof and morale is painfully low. All of these reactions, states of mind and circumstances are often rooted in communication — both good and bad.
The structure and context within which an effective team operates enable the Leader and members to engage with the team’s purpose and participate in its activities. The drivers of high-performing teams are the leader and members’ common understanding of the team’s purpose, shared and individual roles and expectations, ability to build rapport and relationships, and the knowledge and skills to perform effectively. (Dwyer
2013 p 204)
5.1 WORKING TOGETHER
Work team meetings are a major part of business communication. Work teams work collaboratively to achieve agreed outcomes which are within its charter. They may take all types of structures to accomplish their task.
Some key processes may be to:
• Identify a problem
• Think creatively
• Solve problems.
Effective meetings enable individuals to:
• Share and clarify information
• Give and receive feedback
• Provide and/or receive training
• Participate in discussions
• Become part of the solution to problems
• Observe and actively listen to what is being said and felt.
Meetings may be pro forma with rules and regulations e.g. an annual general meeting (AGM) or board meeting OR informal which are less structured, and involve a greater reliance on individual participation.
There are four basic types of teams:
• Project work teams. Are outcome driven with a clear purpose and sets of goals, for example, a conference or product launch. Project team —
Obviously, these teams are constructed for a single purpose — with a clear outcome. Table 8.1 Common factors in participation projects on page 207 of the Dwyer text outlines factors that make for either successful or unsuccessful projects.
• Self-managed groups. Do just that. They are responsible for managing themselves and have a high level of control over their day to day activities. Often, a team leader will be appointed but essentially the unit teaches, mentors, and facilitates its own management. Self-managed teams are often see to be at the cutting edge of innovation capable of flexibility and
‘digging down’ into the intellectual capacities of its members.
• Cross-functional teams. Usually contain content experts from across the organisation who subsequently reach consensus decisions. The idea is to harvest all the ideas and use all the available expertise across the organisation to achieve its goals.
• Virtual teams. Work within electronic media across distance and in isolation to communicate and collaborate.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this YouTube clip to an interview about self-managed groups.
DISCUSSION POINT: Identify when you have worked in any one of these types of teams and share your experiences in the discussion board.
Some meetings require people to take specific roles, such as the chairperson and the secretary. These may be elected or appointed. The chairperson decides the agenda (in consultation with others), keeps all the members informed, facilitates the actual meeting, and helps the meeting to reach decisions and recommend actions. The secretary takes notes on the proceedings and keeps a record of any decisions made.
Effective meetings take planning. An agenda must be agreed and notified in advance so that all members can prepare. If decisions are to be made, the way in which they are arrived at should be agreed in advance. Possibilities include consensus (everyone agrees) and simple majority (the option voted for by the most people). If necessary, a casting vote may be taken by the chairperson.
At every stage of group development and in every type of team, members engage in formal and informal communication. They apply their interpersonal listening and non- verbal skills, including body language, voice, tone and nuance to manage team interactions.
Communication purposes in a team include:
• Establishing a climate of trust and balancing power and authority
• Setting goals and agreeing objectives
• Allocating tasks and delegating work
• Striking the balance between empowerment and accountability
• Identifying tactics for monitoring and follow up
• Evaluating and appraising performance
Again, we come back to how the role of communication practitioners and communicators is integral to the successful leadership and management of an organisation. What workers are saying, doing, feeling and communicating within these work teams is the creative life-blood of the organisation.
Teamwork is becoming more and more common in business. This is a reflection of changes in the workplace including:
• A move away from autocratic authority (decision-making from the top) to participative decision-making. Remember this is an excellent observation point for leader communication and organisational communication. How do these two work in practice? Is real time practice in opposition to how the upper echelon think communication is working in their organisation? Often organisations have attitudes, policies and philosophies that do not reflect their day to day practice. In many ways, it is the human condition, where battlelines can be drawn when communication has broken down. A saying attributed to former Prime Minister Keating sums this up entirely. ‘When having to choose between a conspiracy and chaos, always choose chaos.’ It’s your role as a communicator to join up these dots of information and make the message coherent.
• ‘Flatter’ organisational structures should correlate with fewer bosses and more self-managed, semi-autonomous work teams. Sometimes, however, this is a sham and one of the most difficult communication environments can be where flatter management styles have become policy. However, the reality is that lip service only is being paid to these processes and any real decision making is still top down. This can create an extremely cynical workplace where team work has become a waste of time and everyone knows it.
• The move from mass production (the mechanical structure) to more specialised products and services requires a more flexible system of co- operation and information sharing (a more organic structure).
Small, task-oriented groups meet the challenges presented by changing business. Effective teams follow a set of understood rules of organisation and decision-making procedures, not necessarily written down but inherent within the work culture of the organisation
5.2 DISADVANTAGES OF WORK TEAMS
• It can be time consuming. We all know how ‘real’ work time can be sucked up by endless meetings and these need to be prioritised.
• Group work can be disruptive and frustrating. Sometimes it just isn’t working and aggressive as well as submissive elements are blocking progress
• There may be pressure on group members to conform to and ‘group think’, which often stifles creativity.
The important thing is to be independent in your analysis of what is happening and applied your skills as a communicator to manage cultural change towards healthier communications practice.
It is important to identify all the goals — individuals, group, leadership and management. These may or may not be in harmony, but ideally there should be a balance. However, often there may be conflict.
All types of goals can be manipulated so be aware of those seeking their own ends, agendas or, sometimes, just the personal satisfaction of winning at all costs.
5.3 GROUP DYNAMICS
Put simply, group dynamics is the name given to what happens between, and to, group members. Again, it is here where the awareness of the intertwined relationship between leadership, management and communication and, indeed, your own self- awareness are paramount.
People usually do fall into roles within group work that can be identified as task-related, maintenance related, defensive and (sadly) dysfunctional.
Key to observing and interpreting groups dynamic is identifying some consistent member profiles. Some of these are:
5.4 THE FRIENDLY HELPER
• Maintenance oriented
• Harmoniser, compromiser, seeks mutual affection, appeals to pity
• Fears s/he will not be loved, wanted.
5.5 THE TOUGH BATTLER
• Task or defensive oriented
• Sees group in terms of conflict and power
• Assertive, initiating, presses for results, gives orders and directions
• Weighs up who is strong and weak
• Fears losing power or becoming soft and sentimental.
5.6 THE LOGICAL THINKER
• Task oriented
• Seeks information, weighs up the pros and cons
• Sticks to the rules
• Fears losing control, losing objectivity.
These roles are often driven by different levels of inclusion, control and acceptance. These are most likely feelings that have grown organically with the dominant work culture in the organisation. Remember, all information is useful and the observations you are making go to the heart of leadership and management styles and subsequently communication.
The other shaper of team dynamics is leadership behaviour that fall into three basic and overarching traits:
• Authoritarian Leadership
• Participative leadership
• Laissez-faire Leadership
Figure 8.2 Different leadership styles and the flow of communication on page 193 of the Dwyer text quickly demonstrates the impacts of style.
The observation and management of team meetings and group dynamics is the frontline of managing the communication in your organisation. This is precisely where war and peace ‘break out’. It is important to remember that how decisions are made is often more important in the long run than the decisions themselves. Demand that every participant is treated respectfully and that every voice in the room is heard. It is often up to the communication practitioner to not only ‘take’ the emotional climate in a meeting, but to set it. How you conduct yourself will often set the benchmark.
WEEK 6 IDENTIFYING, SURVEYING AND MAPPING
Key topics this week are:
• Discussion about various tools you can use to qualify and quantify the success of communication in your organisation.
• Working out how which combinations of these tools may be appropriate for your workplace.
Textbook: Chapter 15, Conducting Surveys and Questionnaires, pp 350–370;
Textbook: Chapter 13, Knowledge Management, pp 308–317.
Independent Learning Task 6
Consider the physical map of your workplace as suggested in the
Discussion Point in 6.1 PHYSICAL MAPPING in this study Guide. Share your thoughts, good and bad about:
1. The physical environment’s impact on communication
2. Its role in potentially setting up cliques and Power Groups.
3. Decide whether the physical design of the workplace informs you about the Leadership and Management styles within the organisation.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post before midnight on Sunday of Week 8.
An important part of your job is to develop some tools to quantify and quality the success or failure of communication within your organisation using surveying and mapping of responses and attitudes.
Surveys are used extensively to inform social and economic policy. Properly conducted surveys provide accurate information and prediction, allowing those organisations that use the survey results to plan confidently for the future. Fowler (2009, p. 3) explains:
There are three potential properties of data from a properly done survey that make them preferable to data from other sources:
• Probability sampling enables one to have confidence that the sample is not a biased one.
• Standardised measurement that is consistent across all respondents so that comparable data is obtained.
• To meet analysis needs a special purpose survey may be the only way to ensure that all of the data for a given analysis are available and can be related. (Dwyer 2013, p. 351)
For the purposed of this Unit, we will give a brief overview of some rudimentary surveys you right use when you get into the workplace. In Assignment 3 Business Report you will be encouraged to use some of these skills to collect and collate data about communication within an organisation. There is no expectation that you will be necessarily producing a full, ethically reviewed survey. However we will be interested in the questions you ask and your interpretation of this primary source.
It is noted that the Dwyer text gives a methodology for a ‘full blown’ set of surveys and questionnaires. This will become an excellent resource for you as you study further or
become the communication practitioner within your organisation.
DISCUSSION POINT: We are interested to know whether you have participated in a survey about communication in your workplace. If so, can you tell us how that worked and whether there was adequate feedback on results? If you have never been
surveyed, perhaps you could tell us what your expected outcomes might be.
The place to start is the organisational chart. You can find this in the Strategic Plan or other policy documents. It details the ‘hierarchy’ of the organisation as well as establishes the sorts of management and other teams that make up the formal structures. It might also indicate communication lines. Most companies have this and it is good to first observe chains of reportage, roles and team charters.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the YouTube link to an excellent breakdown of the structure and purpose of an organisational chart and its meaning.
Work teams usually have an established charter setting out the membership parameters, tasks, accountability and reportage for each group.
This helps to establish who’s who within the work teams and whether the various work teams are actually completing their nominated reportage duties within the organisation. This may not be happening. Perhaps the group is moribund or perhaps they have just fallen off the task. Either way, you need to chart what the reporting cycles should be and whether that is actually occurring.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the link to this YouTube clip that gives an overview of the nature of teams, socially and in the workplace. Skip the first few minutes as they are irrelevant.
Organisations can actually have a great set of policy documents, setting all sorts of necessary communication lines, but the reality is that they have fallen into disuse or have been superseded by the evolving of structures. This often happens in the hurly- burly of the day to day.
It is useful to make a map that charts the published communication lines in an organisation and match it against what is really happening. It is imperative to know what should be happening against what the reality is.
6.1 PHYSICAL MAPPING
It is helpful to draw up a map of where workers and work groups sit or work within the building. This is often an extremely interesting exercise that can often reveal the hierarchical or flat management structure of the organisation. It may indicate physical obstacles to communication. An example may be that all management is on one floor or in a particular area and this may hinder more informal communication lines. Everyone on one floor will get the message straight away whereas it takes some time for the message to get to the ‘factory floor’ unless some other mechanisms are engaged. This can lead to confusion (noise and interference).
In any event, drawing up this map will enable the development of a relationship map as an overlay.
DISCUSSION POINT: Draw a map of where people sit in your workplace. Once you have done that, complete this week’s Independent Learning Task.
6.2 RELATIONSHIP MAPPING
A relationship maps and records who are connected, and who are not, across a myriad of relationships and alliances.
Often these relationships can be drawn onto the Physical Map in different coloured lines to indicate the nature of the relationships. It need only be a very basic map and it is really just for your use to aid your understanding of the culture and dynamics of the organisation. You may find in bigger organisations that there are no social connections between departments or that certain factions, cliques and shadow networks operate with far too much power.
In communication, a shadow network is a name given to informal networking. They have no structure, charter or reportage requirements — yet they are powerful. The can be the smoker’s club, or the lunch crew or the crew that go to the pub, or footy tab — whatever they do or whomever they are — they are powerful and are connected through their workplace and experiences.
This power can be exercised positively and negatively. Indeed, some of the most creative ideas can be found in the shadow system. A big part of your role to make sure that every voice is heard is to set up mechanisms that harvest these ideas and feed them into the more formal structures.
When drawing up your relationship map remember to include all of the informal
‘shadow’ networks — smokers, coffee shop, lunch groups as well as out of work connection (footy clubs, kids, schools) as these are all very much ‘live sites’ for work communication. Many times it is here in these shadowy networks that matters are discussed and ‘sorted’.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this YouTube link to a discussion about different sorts of relationships. Can you identify these types of relationships in your workplace?
I’m sure you will be surprised at the amount of meaning these maps can bring to your communication successes and failures — and often leadership and management are blind to some of the more physical and emotion information available to them — whereas the workers certainly are not.
It adds to your understanding of why some people may behave differently in various meeting situations and can value add to your own awareness as well as your
understanding of other’s feelings and emotions when trying to establish a positive emotional climate.
These tools can serve as a quick reference for you when heading into a potential conflict meeting. It can act as a quick guide of who is going to stick up for whom and who is not. They are also usual for considering when setting up teams that truly match the demographics across the entire workplace. They are a positive tool for creating inclusiveness.
6.3 SURVEY QUESTIONS
There are many ways of using survey questions. You can do a real survey using a program like Survey Monkey which will be anonymous and do the data analysis for you or it can be as random and a set of questions you might ask some workers in response perhaps to where they sit in the organisational chart and maps.
Each work place is different so it is difficult to come up with a definitive set. Here are some examples of questions that work:
• What values are shared across the organisation and do we live up to these values effectively?
• How often do you personally take away useful information/learning from staff or team meetings?
• Can you describe the role of the management team?
• How often does the management team communicate information to you personally and to all staff?
• How often do you use the website or intranet to source organisational information?
• How often is information from your work team communicated to other departments/work teams across the organisation?
• Do you believe there are functional, informal networks that communicate information effectively across the organisation?
These questions are merely offered to spark your imagination when developing survey questions for your workplace.
Here’s what they may look like in a real survey within an organisation. It just needs to be a simple document. The secret of surveys is to keep them short, easy to answer and always hone the questions down to what you really want to know.
1. How would you describe your understanding of the roles of the Strategic Management Team and the Business Management Team?
2. How often do these two working parties communicate information to:
– You personally?
all the time
– Staff and board?
all the time
3. How often do you use the intranet or our website to source learnings?
all the time
4. How often do you personally take away useful information/learning from staff meetings?
all the time
5. How often are learnings from your project communicated to other projects?
all the time
6. Do you believe that the organisation has any functional informal networks t that communicate across the organisation?
all the time
7. How effectively do you believe that you can upwardly communicate your learnings/information/concerns within the organisation?
all the time
8. How effectively do you believe we communicate our learnings into the wider community?
all the time
9. How effectively do you believe the organisation fulfils its strategic objectives?
all the time
10. List some values we share across the organisation?
6.4 KNOWLEDGE WORKERS
Knowledge is data, information and intelligence that can be used to act. The intellectual capital of an organisation is the collective knowledge (whether documented or not) of individual workers that can be (and is) applied to work.
Knowledge workers are the natural allies of the communication practitioner. You can often identify them through the observation of these traits:
• Values knowledge
• Encourages knowledge sharing
• Applies knowledge to all activities
• Empowers people to make decisions relating to work activities
• Encourages networks and recognises the efforts of others. (Dwyer 2009, pp 350)
Drucker (1959) used the phrase knowledge worker to describe a person who works primarily with information, or develops and uses knowledge in the workplace. (Dwyer 2013, p. 306)
On page 307 of the Dwyer text you will find Table 12.1 A hierarchy of knowledge work. Dwyer (2013, p. 308) notes,
Tacit knowledge is the knowledge people carry in their minds and hence is difficult to access. Explicit knowledge is knowledge that has or can be articulated and stored, and can be easily transferred to others.
Of course, the journey form ‘tacit’ to explicit’ is driven by communication and it would be one of the long-term objectives of any functional communication strategy within a workplace.
As a communication practitioner you should be actively promoting a knowledge sharing culture and ‘lifetime’ learning processes.
In the course of your work, you will need to be drawing on organisational memory, knowledge assets, and people’s knowledge of relationships, knowledge of processes, knowledge of products and services and a range of other information.
Identify your knowledge workers and engage them in your strategies. They are often your first and easiest allies.
It seems simple, but keeping a diary of observations can certainly inform your relationship mapping and help you analysis what works and what doesn’t, with your communication messaging. Comments made in meetings and chats can really inform your communication approaches and sometimes the most unlikely person comes up with exactly the right form of words that will work for you and your organisation.
MODULE 4 SPEECHES AND KEY BUSINESS DOCUMENTS
WEEK 7 INTRODUCTION TO ORAL PRESENTATION
Key topics we will cover this week are:
• Developing an understanding of different oral presentation situations
• Investigating a range of spoken language styles
• Exploring how to evaluate communication effectiveness by using communications tools and models in your day to day communication with others.
Textbook: Chapter 18, Oral Presentations and Public Speaking, pp 422-427 and pp 437-443.
Thill, J V & Bovee, C L 2008, ‘Preparing Reports and Oral Presentations’. Excellence in Business Communication, 8th edition. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ., Chapter 14, pp 506–532.
Independent Learning Task 7
Try to make an impromptu speech about a topic of your choice for no
longer than 2 minutes. Try to follow the PREP formula. (see Figure 17.1 in Dwyer 2020, p. 429 or Figure 18.1 in Dwyer 2016, p. 425).
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post before midnight on Sunday of Week 9.
The place to start any discussion of oral presentations is to ‘acknowledge the findings of studies conducted by Mehrabian (1971) showing that only 7% of what an audience believes and understands comes from the text, while 38% comes from what it hears and 55% comes from what it sees’. (Dwyer 2013, p. 423)
There are many ways of making an oral presentation in an organisation. Some are:
• Oral briefings
• Team briefings
• Impromptu speeches
• Prepared speeches
• Manuscript speeches
• Memorised speeches
• Seminars and webinars.
DISCUSSION POINT: How many different styles of oral presentation have you encountered in your work? Share your experiences, good and bad, and tell us how you succeeded or failed.
REALITY CHECK Follow this YouTube link to see a presentation about successful presentation skills…what are we afraid of? And how can we overcome our fears?
No matter which option you choose, there are some basic steps you must follow:
• Define the purpose
• Analyse the audience
• Consider the context and setting
• Identify the main ideas
• Research and find supporting materials for the message
• Plan and organise the material. (Dwyer 2009, p. 418)
Also, there are some ‘well-worn’ models of how to logically organise your presentation to make it easier for your audience to follow your ideas.
You can order your presentation:
• Spatially or geographically
• From cause to effect
• From problem to solution and
Topicality uses the device of joining the dots between local events, news stories or other information to bring it all together in a big picture outcome. For example, your presentation could be about local vandalism. You could arrive at your outcome by joining together information that makes sense of why it is occurring. Perhaps local police patrols have been cut, the Council has not been maintaining the lighting in parks, parents don’t always know where their kids are at night, local vandalism is on the rise. By connecting to local issues and concerns you build a strong and immediate connection with your audience.
When preparing any form of oral presentation be aware that both the speaker and the audience share common ground — past experiences, ideas, people, interests, values and goals. As the communicator you need to be able to find these connections and use them to transmit your message.
On page 431 of the Dwyer text you will find Figure 18.2 Diagram showing common ground between speaker and audience. Note exactly how common ground is achieved
— through sharing fears and values.
7.1 ORAL BRIEFING
Public speaking isn’t always just speaking in front of a large audience. Oral briefings are made to smaller groups within organisations or with clients. How else is a briefing different from standard public speaking?
• Normally all participants are aware of the topic of the speech e.g. a report, submission, plan or proposal
• Usually you will know the audience and be aware of their prior knowledge levels which will help you pitch your speech appropriately.
• Oral briefings might seem easier to deliver than normal speeches, but remember that you are often delivering to your ‘core’ audience, so don’t take them for granted, however minor or unimportant they seem.
When planning and delivering your briefing, you should follow these rules:
• Prepare the briefing to achieve its specific purpose
• Analyse the audience
• Consider the context
• Identify the main ideas
• Choose a pattern of logic and organisation
• Present any relevant background information
• Propose and discuss any available solutions
• Analyse the advantages and disadvantages of any suggested course of action
• Outline and emphasise the positive aspects and implications of any proposed changes.
DISCUSSION POINT: Review your answers to the last Discussion Point. Apply these rules above to your answer and see if you can see how to improve your presentation.
In a group briefing situation, agree on an overall structure well in advance. Each team member should have a distinct role. Have one group member present the introduction and beginning; another should develop the main body and provide supporting details; and another reinforces the ideas in the main body and presents the conclusion. Make sure the final statements are clear and precise.
Whether presenting alone or as a group always:
• Get to the point quickly. List any options or alternatives, advantages and disadvantages, impacts and recommendations. Encourage audience participation, questions and suggestions.
• Show interest in any responses, make a note of them and incorporate them into any further reports.
Other techniques may help you to present your briefing in an interesting and cohesive way. For example, audio-visual aids such as videos, PowerPoint presentations and handouts are all useful, but should be consistent in style and presentation. Just remember that the graphics and other design elements for presentation is not the message. The message is your words, gestures, symbols and feelings. Never let presentation tools like PowerPoint overwhelm the central message that you are delivering. In person to person communication, the media is not the message.
During your briefing, make sure you address your audience and not the other members of your team. When appropriate you should refer to ideas presented by other group members and link your content to their input.
7.2 PUBLIC SPEAKING
Public speaking, just like written communication, aims to inform, instruct and persuade the audience. The big difference is that effective public speaking also seeks to entertain. Confident, and therefore entertaining, public speaking takes thorough planning.
There are a number of different types of public speaking, including:
• Prepared speeches. These are planned and prepared before the presentation. Using prompts on palm cards or visual presentations helps you look spontaneous and makes sure you don’t forget important points.
• Impromptu speeches. Unexpected and therefore delivered unprepared.
Quick, clear thinking is vital. Some speakers use the PREP formula to help them give good impromptu speeches i.e.
P = main Point
R = Reason
E = an Example
P = restating the main Point.
• Manuscript speeches. A researched piece that is read. Usually reserved for speeches where accuracy is vital, such as a legal address or a parliamentary speech.
• Memorised speeches. Delivered without notes and so best reserved for short speeches. One of the hardest styles to master successfully.
7.3 OVERCOMING ANXIETY
For most people, public speaking doesn’t come easily. Whether it is making a speech to a group of people we don’t know, giving instructions to a large group, or giving an oral presentation or briefing at work, public speaking can be one of the most stressful communication situations. Public speaking can create fear, anxiety, panic, lack of confidence and self-consciousness. But doing it well can also be the most satisfying and rewarding of experiences. People who excel at public speaking seem interesting and gain respect. They achieve more in terms of personal and professional advancement.
If you’re not naturally gifted at public speaking, don’t despair. There are ways to overcome anxiety about speaking in public.
• Don’t dwell on negative feelings and expectations. Devise active, positive strategies
• Never underestimate the importance of experience. Take the
opportunity to speak in public whenever possible.
• Plan and prepare. This is one of the easiest ways you can help yourself.
Know your subject (a major confidence booster) and analyse the audience: What do they know and feel about the topic? What common experiences can you refer to? Take note of immediate audience responses and feedback during your performance.
• Acknowledge your nervousness and use it to your advantage. Let the
adrenalin give you energy and dynamism.
• Assume the audience is on your side and wants to hear what you have to say. Draw on their empathy. People are very generous.
• Be enthusiastic. You want to tell the audience what you know and what
they may not fully appreciate.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the link to this YouTube clip that discusses ways of eliminating anxiety when speaking publically. I use at least one of these techniques all the time to relieve anxiety.
7.4 LAW OF PRIMACY AND RECENCY
This law states that listeners will remember what they hear first AND last in an oral presentation. This puts the onus of you to make the beginning and the end the place where you deliver your primary messages. Many speakers who summarise at the end of a speech might do so by using techniques that go right back to the beginning (not
‘Ok well … I have been talking for 10 minutes to prove to you the importance of what I said to you right at the start … We need to fix up our telephone techniques so that we don’t lose a sale’.
7.5 MAKE IT FUN
The best speeches inform, instruct, persuade and entertain. There are plenty of ways that you can make your speech really come alive. When you do a good job, you gain your audience’s attention and establish a good rapport with them.
• Make statements that immediately connect you at an emotional level with the audience
• Provide lots of examples, illustrations, personal experiences and comparisons in your speech. Facts and statistics can be useful too, but don’t overdo them.
• Explain specialist and technical terms. If your audience is unfamiliar with technical terms, consider writing them on a display board or use an overhead transparency.
• Divide your statements. “The new product has four added advantages.” “There are two main theories, X and Y…”
• Use these divisions to frame your speech. “The first advantage is…”; “So that ends my discussion on X. Let’s now look at Y…”.
• Use focus statements. ‘The main point is…’. ‘This is very important.’
• Visualise statements where relevant. “Picture yourself arriving 20 minutes late for your interview…”.
• Associate statements where possible. “The heart works like a bicycle pump…”. If you happen to have a pump with you to demonstrate, so much the better!
• Maintain eye contact. Scan the audience or sections of it. With a smaller group you can seek individual eye contact.
• Keep your facial expression smiling and interested, and vary the tone of your voice.
• Make sure gestures look natural. Flamboyant eccentricities or mannerisms can be distracting rather than endearing.
7.6 PODCASTS AND VIDEO LINKS
Podcasts and video links are becoming increasingly popular as businesses become less centralised e.g. people working from home and as globalisation becomes a reality.
Podcasts can be a simple broadcast version of any sort of oral presentation. It can be a weekly chat from the boss through to a set speech detailing new policy.
Video link ups are now very accessible with products like Skype allowing extremely low price conferencing for up to ten people through to full production linking keynote speakers from overseas straight into your work conference.
These new products are cost effective. Work team meetings can be done cheaply and efficiently saving time and perhaps travel costs. Even with a full production international video link extravaganza, this can be cheaper than flying someone from overseas and only taking up one hour of their time rather than a week.
There is only one rule for these innovative communications tools — all the rules that apply to traditional oral presentation skills also apply here. They may provide cheaper and more immediate communication, but in your role as a communicator you need to be preparing, observing, listening and responding using the techniques we are discussing. Still, even today — the media is not the message — you are.
The art of speech making (rhetoric) goes right back to Aristotle in ancient Greece. In fact, his book The Art of Rhetoric is still considered the seminal piece today. In précis, he argued that there were three categories of rhetorical proof:
Character — the character of the speaker and the character of the audience
Emotion — as it can bring justice into any situation
Reason — the practical everyday reason of a particular situation encapsulated in an argument that works.
So once again, nothing is very new about communication, it is ancient knowledge and the cornerstone of our civilization.
“With the truth, all given facts harmonise — but with what is false, the truth soon hits a wrong note.” Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
Dwyer, J 2013, Communication for Business and the Professions, Strategies and Skills, 5th Edition, Chapter 17 Oral Presentations and Public Speaking pp 453–475,
WEEK 8 WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Key topics we will cover this week are:
• Learning to write in plain English
• Investigating a range of writing styles across different media
• Gaining some useful insight into effective written communication, grammar and standard business practices.
Textbook: Chapter 19, Writing for the professions, pp 452-467.
Textbook: Chapter 22, Writing for the Web, pp 568-585.
Dwyer, J 2020, ‘Writing correspondence, emails and short reports’, Communication for business and the professions: Strategies and skills, 7th edn, Pearson Education Australia, Sydney, pp. 484–531
Textbook: Chapter 20, Writing Correspondence, pp 481-511.
Bell, AH 2004, ‘A Quick guide to Grammar and Punctuation.’ Writing Effective Letters, Memos & E-mail, 3rd edition. Barron’s Educational Series Inc, New York. Appendix A.
Blundel, R 2004, ‘Letters, E-mails and Text Messgages.’ Effective Organisational Communication: Perspectives, Principles and Practices, 2nd edition. Pearson Education Ltd, Essex. Chapter 8, pp 171–189.
Independent Learning Task 8
On page 461 (7th edn) 455 (6th edn) of the Dwyer text you will find APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE: Audience Analysis. Complete the tasks and share them with your fellow students.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List. The Discussion Board is available for a three-week period – make sure you post before midnight on Sunday of Week 10.
There’s no doubt the tools we communicate with are changing, but no matter how
‘high-tech’ the writing tool is, you still have to write effectively. It may be words on a page or on a screen, but writing is still a vital part of business communication.
8.1 THE IMPORTANCE OF WRITING
So why write?
• Writing enables thinking.
• Writing isn’t as immediate as speech. It gives us time to consider what we need to say, and what’s more, allows for revision. This should mean that written communication causes less misunderstanding, offence or interference.
• Writing is formal. Once something is ‘on paper’, it’s generally seen as
‘serious’ and formal, so more is at stake.
• Writing is detailed. The time spent writing means it is more precise and concise than speech — or should be!
• Good writing leaves less room for interpretation than a conversation.
Speaking is naturally rambling and repetitive.
• Writing is accessible. Technology makes copying a written message easy, meaning it’s a good way of passing on information, instructions etc.
• Writing is reviewable. You can re-read the message as many times as you need.
• Writing ‘shields’ the sender. A written message is generally read while the writer is absent making a negative or controversial message easier for the sender.
Like all business communication, writing is used to inform, instruct and persuade the reader or audience. This means that it’s incredibly important to understand the audience and its needs.
Writing is also useful to us in helping us to think and learn. We learn by ‘restatement in words’. Sometimes we’re unsure of what we want to say before we start writing; rather we achieve meaning through the act of writing.
In other words, writing helps you discover what you have to say.
Once we have decided what we have to say we need to be able to express it in plain
English — clear, uncomplicated expression.
Figure 19.1 in the Dwyer text introduces the 3 main advantages of plain English — Equity, Efficiency and Effectiveness.
Figure 19.2 details the three stage writing process — Planning, Writing, and Editing. These two graphics should be stuck up on your wall from now on as they encapsulate
a quick check for you at the end of any writing session.
DISCUSSION POINT: Most of you have received policy documents or strategies that are indecipherable. Tell us your stories. Why didn’t they work? What chaos did they cause? Do you find your OUA documents easy to follow?
The most important principle of plain English is that documents are created and written from the receiver’s viewpoint. The structure and purpose of the document are decided by answering these four questions:
• What does the reader need to know?
• How much do they understand of the subject?
• What is the best way to organise ideas so that they make sense to the reader?
• Is the document really necessary or would another method of communication work better? (Dwyer 2009, p. 462)
Using convoluted language and complex sentences is to be avoided. Being ‘wordy’ is not necessarily being a good communicator. Not to mention, that the use of difficult vocabulary may exclude some readers from understanding the message. It’s everyone’s right to have access to information and to be treated with equity.
Further to that, if you are writing in plain English, your message will be clearer to your international clients — who often have one staff member who is an accomplished English speaker — as we do in Australia where people are employed on the basis of their Mandarin skills (for example).
8.2 WRITING FOR BUSINESS
In business writing you are generally expected to follow the conventions, standards and principles of ‘correct’ or formal writing. Standards and conventions do change, but spelling, grammar and punctuation are still important. Tangents, deviations, sloppiness and mistakes will reflect badly on your organisation and on you. Not all readers will detect the error, but some will and will almost invariably comment.
With increased computer use, we do more of our own writing than ever before — gone are the days of the typing pools and, indeed, most workers today don’t even know they existed and that’s a good thing too.
Today’s business expectation is that you are personally responsible for everything you write.
The following are brief pointers to good business writing skills:
• Structure. Aim for a clear and logical sequence of information. Plan a little, write a lot, then organise more carefully. Don’t forget to cover the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ points.
• Tone. Write to fit the occasion and reader, avoid sexist and potentially offensive expressions.
• Get it right. Adopt professional standards of grammar, punctuation and spelling.
• Be personal. Use the ‘you’ approach, speak to the reader.
• Use active rather than passive voice. The ‘do’ things, rather than have things ‘done’.
• Use headings and sub-headings, numbers, bullets and dashes.
• Make effective use of page design. Have plenty of ‘white paper’ visible.
Just one simple rule of thumb will stand you in good stead — one idea equals one sentence. It is the first rule of journalism, and it can work really effectively for you too.
8.3 BACK TO BASICS: GRAMMAR
Correct grammar helps sentences to flow and provides order in any form of written communication.
Grammar also clarifies meaning. Let’s look at this old joke as an example:
Version 1. ‘I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.’ Maria
Version 2. ‘I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.’ Maria
It is only the use of punctuation that completely changes the meaning of these two versions. Yet, amazingly, it happens all the time.
Grammar, punctuation and spelling correctly are difficult, especially with all of the confusing rules unique to English. Mistakes distract from your messaging and lead to communication breakdowns. Even worse, they are just plain embarrassing, especially if you are the designated communications practitioner.
A handy tip is to always have someone who has been outside the process of writing an important piece to read it for meaning. One of the biggest dangers is to become ‘text- blind’, having written and read the piece a dozen times anyone can become blinded to its errors.
Most computers can check grammar, but remember that they aren’t perfect. They won’t recognise any specialist terms you wish to use, and sometimes they use American English only. But they do make a good starting point, so always check any word- processed piece of writing.
Here are some basic grammatical guidelines for good business writing:
• Keep sentences short. One sentence should send only one message or idea.
• Break paragraphs up. Avoid single-sentence paragraphs — it almost always indicates that too many ideas are being put forward, creating confusion.
• Each paragraph should comprise a topic sentence, two or three supporting sentences and a concluding sentence, which links into the next paragraph.
• Check the punctuation. Understand the differences between standard punctuation forms and use them appropriately, for example the colon (:), the semi-colon (;), the comma (,) and the full stop (.).
• Beware of time worn errors like its and its or perhaps, your and you’re.
These golden oldies are the ones that infuriate punctuation ‘pedants’ more than any.
REALITY CHECK: Mind you, there is a rich and loud debate about grammar going on all around us. Here’s what Stephen Fry thinks of it.
8.4 BUSINESS WRITING STYLES
8.4.1 Business Letters
Letters are still a common form of written business communication — particularly in matters of great importance. Standardised, computer-generated form letters are often used for regular or common types of communication, but the most important letters are personal responses, requests etc.
Business letters normally include:
• The letterhead. Including the name of the organisation, its address and contact details. This can be at the top or bottom of the page.
• A reference line. Our reference, your reference.
• The date. In the format ’17 May 2001′.
• Receiver’s name and address with no commas or punctuation
• An attention line
• The salutation or greeting. If you don’t know the receiver’s name, use their position instead e.g. Dear Sales Manager. The Dear Sir/Madam greeting has gone out of fashion.
• The subject. Bold or underlined, never both.
• The body of the letter. Written clearly, simply, positively and explicitly.
• The close. ‘Yours faithfully’ if you don’t know them and have used a Dear Sir/Ms Manager style of salutation; ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the person or correspond with them regularly.
• Enc. (if you have enclosed any other material) and/or cc (if you have copied the letter to someone else).
Letters are also used to give the reader unwelcome news, for example, like not getting a job. Take extra care to get the right message across without unnecessarily upsetting or offending the reader. Often readers reread ‘bad news’ letters seeking to find meaning. You must make sure that your message is compassionate, clear and honest.
Email is an electronic message sent between computers via modems and the Internet. It’s fast, cheap and generally more informal than traditional letters and is best used for internal messages or less formal external messages. In many cases, legislation today recognises most emails as being of the same legal status as a signed letter.
The layout of e-mails depends on the software, but the minimum acceptable information includes:
• To (the receiver’s name). Some sort of salutation is still advisable although you should be aware that traditional routine openings can sound clichéd in e-mails.
• From (the sender’s name). Not just their e-mail address e.g. email@example.com.
• The subject line. This should briefly summarise the message.
• The date. Although most programs insert the date/time automatically in the header, make sure your computer’s clock has been set correctly.
• The body. Email is fast and informal, but it’s still written communication. Be careful with content. Avoid being overly familiar or discourteous. Don’t use long sentences with lots of obscure jargon. Avoid negative or pessimistic content. Don’t assume the receiver shares your level of computer knowledge. Email should include some other way, apart from e-mail, to contact the sender.
• Remember never to respond in anger. One of the drawbacks of
‘immediacy’ is responding inappropriately. Give yourself a rule that you never respond to an email that has offended you until you have calmed down and can think strategically.
• It is still important for business emails to use correct conventions of grammar and spelling, so avoid using e-mail abbreviations such as BTW (by the way) and IMHO (in my humble opinion). Proof read carefully before sending any email, especially if your program doesn’t allow you to run spell checks automatically.
8.4.3 Blogs and Social Media Applications
Many organisations are taking on new virtual applications like blogs and business applications of social media.
These can both apply a live chat room feel to your communication, and mean that individuals and groups can send and respond in real time to everyone else in that group.
This will quickly overrun email, because essentially, you can send one blog comment AND everyone can action immediately instead of sending a number of emails and getting in to that cycle of constantly checking that everyone has replied. These days, email often causes confusion.
Blogs and social media allow the writer to put up one document where all readers can see all responses immediately and transparently.
Because it is fast and efficient, all the basic rules about writing need to be taken aboard these innovations or else confusion and lack of clarity can cause conflict.
Even more so, blogs need to be written with great care and attention to our basic plain
English knowledge base and with as little message breakdown as possible.
No matter how much technology changes our communication tools, writing remains our
‘thinking it through’ tool. It is impossible to underestimate the power of sitting down and having to put your ideas on the page.
ALL THE TECHNOLOGY KNOWN TO US CANNOT MAKE A MESSAGE WORK ONLY OUR MASTERY OF LANGUAGE AND WRITING CAN DO THAT.
WEEK 9 WHAT IS A BUSINESS REPORT?
Key topics we will be covering this week are:
• Researching and preparing a written report
• Discussing the logical steps involved in building your report.
Textbook: Chapter 21, Writing Long Reports, pp 530–563.
Penrose, J M & Lahiff, J M 1997, A Systematic Approach to Effective Written Communication’. Business Communication: Strategies and Skills, edn 5 Prentice-Hall Inc. New Jersey. Chapter 5, pp 109–128.
Independent Learning Task 9
Find an informative article from a publication such as The Conversation or National Geographic, a report from Amnesty or Oxfam, a statistical report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics or a Choice evaluation of a product (aim for articles/reports that are over 2000 words) and write a 200-word executive summary that contains all the messages that you might want a reader to ‘take home’ with them.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List.
Perhaps the most common reports you may write as a Communication Practitioner will be the Analytical Report or the Informational Long Report.
The Analytical Report will always be read by the person who ordered the study. The analysis must always be balanced and objective. Informational Reports may be positive, neutral or negative. (Dwyer 2013, p. 534)
On page 531 of the Dwyer text, you will find Table 21.1 Characteristics of analytical and in informational reports. They are quite different. Make sure you understand the differences before commencing Assignment 3. Dwyer’s Chapter 21 gives you all the style and content detail you will need to write your assignment.
Reports are an organised, factual statement or account which:
• Conveys specific information to a specific reader or readers and
• Provides solutions or makes recommendations regarding a problem.
Reports are often produced in response to a problem or question. Why are sales falling? How can we expand our market into Asia? They are meant to inform and advise, not impress. But a well-written report will do both. Reports should convey factual, objective information. It is most likely that you will write a report about communication issues within your organisation quite soon after joining and, indeed, this
may be the most crucial writing you do in your start up.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a YouTube clip that discusses the transition from narrative writing to analytical writing.
9.1 STEP 1 — RESEARCH
Start with research. Before beginning, you need to establish:
• What exactly is being requested? Reports are built around a set of instructions or terms of reference. They outline the scope of the report and the lines you are required to follow.
• A thesis sentence, written before you attempt the report. Check your sentence with your supervisor. Is this what they want? This will get you on the right track and acts as an assurance against future criticism. The purpose of the report must be clear in the writer’s mind before any work is done.
• What resources are available for preparing the report? Consider time, money and people.
• What communication tools have you at hand to shape your message?
Preparing a report takes considerable time, thought and research before you begin prevents wasted effort.
Quality, precision, coherence and the use of plain English are more important than the size of the completed document, so shorter and punchier is good — and remember an Executive Summary should leave no one with the excuse that they haven’t had time to
DISCUSSION POINT: You will find a whole set of tutorials that explain how to write academically through the Library link on Learning@Griffith. These will be immensely helpful in the transition from writing a narrative opinion piece to producing a piece of
9.2 STEP 2 — PLAN THE REPORT
Planning a report can take a lot of time. But there’s no doubt that planning takes a lot less time than re-writing. There are seven steps in planning a report:
1. Outline the problem or question being addressed.
2. Consider the audience — ask yourself:
o Who is going to read my report?
o What do they already know?
o What do they need to know?
3. How can I make the reader understand what they need to know?
4. Decide what ideas you need to include in your report.
5. Collect any necessary data or information.
6. Review any information you collect, and then sort and evaluate it. Never discard any research information, you never know when it’s going to come in useful. Organise the information to fit your report format. Make sure the different sections fit together, and that there are no gaps in your information. Classify the information under broad headings.
7. Draft an outline of the report, ordering your information logically.
Again the application of plain English is a powerful tool to revisit as part of reviewing your plan. You may also review your mapping of the workplace, understanding of the emotional environment the readers find themselves in, as well as keeping your mind open to identifying any potential noise or interference that may breakdown your message.
9.3 STEP 3 — PREPARATION OF DATA
Information for preparing your report can come from one or more of the following four sources:
• Personal observation
• Existing printed material (library, archives, professional bodies, government departments, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics)
• Visual material (graphs, designs, plans etc.)
• People (surveys, interviews, focus groups both internally and externally).
Information sources can be divided into two separate categories: primary and secondary.
Primary sources of information are usually people or organisations directly involved in the area under consideration. Primary information is generally unpublished and is usually gathered first hand.
It is collected by observation, experiments, interviews, questionnaires and surveys. You are the collector as well as the source of primary information. Remember to make an objective evaluation of any data collected in this way.
Secondary sources of information are generally published after an event has taken place. They are a review of primary information. There are many sources of secondary information including periodicals and journals (both hard copy and on-line), reference books, databases, CD-ROMs, archives and the mass media.
Acknowledge the source of any information used in your report with:
• A citation within the text of the report or
• Footnotes at the bottom of each page or
• Endnotes at the end of the report.
A report should always include a list of reference sources (i.e. those to which a direct reference is made) or a bibliography (i.e. a list of the report writer’s general reading on the subject).
Some sources of information have more credibility than others. For example, publications from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are generally seen as trustworthy and can be quoted in a report with confidence. However, information obtained from less formal and reputable sources should be treated with more care — information from private websites on the Internet should be examined particularly carefully before you use it in a report. Ideally, don’t use anything that can’t be cross-referenced with a more reliable source. After all, the best thing and the worst thing about Web 2.0 is that anyone can post.
9.4 STEP 4 — PRESENTATION
Long reports are traditionally presented in three parts:
1. The front matter
2. The body
3. The end matter.
The front matter. Everything that comes before the main body of the report. Front matter includes:
• The title page. Features the report title, the name of the person it is intended for (usually the person who authorised it), and the name and job title of the writer.
• A letter of transmittal. A covering letter, outlining the report’s terms of reference and scope. All contributors should be acknowledged here.
• A table of contents. Shows the name of each part of the report, sub- headings within each section and the page numbers where they can be found.
• An executive summary. Abstract or synopsis that runs through the main points of the report. This is very important, as many busy executives simply do not have the time to read every report in full, and will often base their decisions on the contents of the executive summary.
• Optional information includes lists of tables and figures, and an authorisation document from the report’s originator.
The body. The longest part of the report, usually written in three main sections:
• The introductory section identifies the report’s purpose, its scope, and terms of reference. Start with a purpose statement, define any technical terms, outline any research limitations and give a brief statement of results.
• The centre section contains a detailed analysis and discussion of the issue in question. Present your information objectively, that is logically and rationally, without undue emotion. Headings are useful to highlight the main ideas and to give structure to the report. Graphics may be used to convey ideas, especially complex ones, easily and fully.
• The final section contains the conclusions and recommendations. These are usually presented under separate headings. A conclusion should be short (about half a page) and should not contain any new information. Everything in the conclusion should have already appeared elsewhere in the report. Recommendations are suggestions or proposals to achieve specified results. Each recommendation should be presented in a separate paragraph.
The end matter. The final part of the report, it contains information such as:
• An appendix. Any useful information unsuitable for the body of the report perhaps because it is too long or too technical.
• A bibliography. Lists every source of information used to compile the report and any suggested further reading.
• A glossary of terms. A detailed explanation of any technical or specialist words and phrases used, as well as full versions of any acronyms.
Once the report is complete, you must edit its contents for accuracy, objectivity and omissions. Check the structure for logic, clarity and conciseness. Make sure you have used correct spelling, punctuation and grammar and that your writing is in plain English. Proof read several times and, if it is a major document, get someone you trust to read it through for logic and meaning.
‘There is nothing to writing, all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’
WEEK 10 WHAT IS VISUAL DESIGN IN BUSINESS WRITING
Key topics we will cover this week are:
• Discussing the benefits of clean and accessible design and layout
• Looking at the general principles of graphic design.
Textbook: Chapter 17, Communicating through Visuals, pp 395–416.
Angell, P 2004, ‘Creativity and Visual Design.’ Business Communication Design: Creativity, Strategy and Solutions. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc, Boston. Chapter 17, pp 417–537.
Independent Learning Task 10
Identify a form of visual communication and evaluate the effectiveness of the medium chosen. Next, evaluate the style and the communication of the message and determine whether the message suits the needs of the sender, the receiver or both sender and receiver.
Remember to include at least one research source in each post and a Reference List.
Business communicators commonly use visual design elements to break up text blocs, add interest, and present data. And while no one is going to give you their business simply because you’ve included a killer pie chart, let’s face it, the content of much business communication begs for a little dazzle.
Effective document design is all about helping you emphasise important information and helping to maintain reader interest.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to YouTube to see a groovy clip on exactly what graphic design is.
10.1 DESIGN AND LAYOUT
It may not be obvious, but every choice you make in regards to the presentation of your documents, communicates something to the reader. Small changes like the choice of font and colour selections will trigger conscious and sub-conscious responses.
The following are a number of tips to keep in mind when considering these design choices:
• Create a coordinated theme for your entire document. Make decisions on page layout and design elements before you start and keep to it.
• Use your space carefully. Remember to leave white space — not every millimetre needs to have something on it. It makes the document look too dense to read.
• Appropriate use of fonts. Some documents should be entered into the record books for the number of fonts applied. This looks unprofessional.
• Use footnotes for supporting details, if required for the document.
• Use headings, sub-headings and summaries. Make them fit the theme, but stand out from the page.
10.2 GENERAL RULES OF GRAPHIC USE
• Graphical information should never be used as “filler”.
• It should be noted that if a business communication is to be summarized and presented verbally, additional graphics will often be included as part of a PowerPoint presentation. If this is the case, treat these additional graphics as attachments to your document as opposed to integrating them into the body of the basic document.
• Graphics are more effective when used sparingly.
• Simplify charts and tables. Detail can be included in attachments.
• Determine the size of the graphic. Considerations should be given to the graphics importance — the more important and complex the communication generally the bigger the graphic.
• Consider the visual aesthetics of the graphic in relation to the other elements presented alongside it.
• The type in the graphics should be consistent in terms of the style and font used throughout the document.
• Background colours, photos and art for your graphics should be chosen carefully. The colours should provide high contrast with the data and not distract from the main message. Photos can add interest.
• Be aware of cross-cultural colour interpretation. Not all cultures interpret visual information the same way. For example, white is the funeral colour in Japanese culture.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a YouTube clip that takes a critical look at what can go wrong on a page due to an imbalance between design and content.
Overusing graphics has the potential to confuse rather than inform the reader. This has a negative effect on the communication of your message. This is called ‘graphics overload’.
All documents have differing graphical requirements, so it can be hard to determine exactly at what point ‘graphics overload is reached’.
Research has shown that an 80–20 ratio (i.e. 80% text to 20% graphics) to be a good rule of thumb. Writers can and will go above this ratio on occasion, but when this ratio is significantly exceeded, readers’ eyes will start glazing over — guaranteed!
The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is true enough, but in business writing a picture is only as valuable as its supporting text. In the end, it’s the message that is important, not the “bells and whistles”.
Cunningham J.E 2007, Effective Use of Graphics in Business Writing. http://www.helium.com/items/541159-effective-use-of-graphics-in-business- writing.
Rentz K., Flatley M. & Lentz P 2011, Graphics in Reports and Documents. Lesikar’s Business Communication: Connecting in a Digital World, 12th editionMcGraw-Hill Irwin. New York, NY. Chapter 12, pp 414-416.
OTHER ACACEMIC SOURCES
Listed below are the names of areas of study as well as academic and other writers who have written useful texts around this week’s topic. This list may help you source more information. Try the Griffith Library or other academic search engines like Google Scholar.
Peter Asprey, Director, Asprey Creative
Listen to Peter Asprey, director of Asprey Creative, speak with Michael Wagner about designing long documents, such as corporate reports or even resumes.
Joseph Marafioti, Graphic Designer
When you create a long document that must be presented to others (like a report or your CV), are you sometimes tempted to make the font’s colourful or exciting? Listen to Joseph Marafioti, graphic designer, as he discusses the mistakes made when designing long documents, with Michael Wagner.
MODULE 5: INTRODUCTION TO NON-VERBAL AND CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION
WEEK 11 INTERCULTURAL AND CROSS CULTURAL COMMUNICATION
Key topics we will cover this week are:
• Introducing the concept of ‘the global society’ and the implications it has for intercultural communicators
• Discussing the elements of cultural difference on the visible and invisible levels
• Discussing the challenge of language.
Textbook: Chapter 6, Intercultural Communication, pp 128–146.
Culture has been described in many different ways over the years, for example:
• Culture is the customs and achievements of a particular group of people
• Culture is a set of learned behaviours and responses
• Culture is transmitted and maintained by learning and interaction within a social group
• Culture is the accumulated deposit of knowledge and experience over generations of a group of people.
11.1 INTERCULTURAL AND INTRACULTURAL COMMUNICATION
Firstly, let us clearly paraphrase the meaning of Intercultural communication as a process of communication between individuals and groups of different and diverse cultures that sets out to establish a common meaning. Whereas, Intracultural Communication can be paraphrased as a process of communication between members of the same dominant culture with shared beliefs, values, customs and behaviours.
It should be noted that white Caucasian Australians are considered to be the dominant cultural group in Australia and that members of that grouping need to understand that their own beliefs, values, customs and behaviours may be dominant but that does not make these shared traits better than those of other cultures.
Ethnocentrism is the use of one’s own culture to interpret other cultures. Ethnocentric people tend to interpret the actions, customs, values, religion, codes and behaviours of other people using their own culture as a guide. (Dwyer 2013, p. 120)
At the other end of the cultural debate you find Enculturation and Acculturation.
Hoebel and Frost (1976, p. 58) define enculturation as ‘conscience and unconscious conditioning occurring within that process whereby the individual, as child or adult, achieves competence in a particular culture.’ (Dwyer 2013, p. 120)
Acculturation is the process by which people adjust to the host culture by adopting its values, symbols and behaviour. Acculturation is a multidimensional process involving the adaption of language, cultural beliefs and values of one group to the norms and structures of another. (Dwyer 2013, p. 120)
You may note that the definitions above form the core of the ongoing assimilation and multicultural debate in Australia, and various different cultural groups are either rewarded or demonised in how they respond to finding their own response to these ideas of culture.
Cultural Relativism can be defined as the opposite of ethnocentrism. It accepts that different cultures encode, decode and interpret messages relative to their own values, behaviours and symbols. Understanding and accepting cultural relativism may be the first step to achieving real intercultural communication. Once again we get back to the issue of how well you know yourself and how effectively you step outside of your own
cultural norms and perceptions.
DISCUSSION POINT: Think about different cultural groups within your community. Identify some that are identified as engaging in enculturation and others that may be identified as engaging in Acculturation. What are the differences? What are the issues?
In the past, culture has been limited by political and geographical boundaries, but quite rapidly this has been transformed by the age of technology and innovation.
As opportunities for contact between cultures have increased, so have trade links. This has resulted in the emergence of globalisation, which means that the cultures of the world are becoming interdependent in many ways. Cultural sensitivity and awareness are increasingly important. Business deals may fail through insensitivity to the value system of a different culture.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the YouTube link below for a discussion of intercultural communication in the workplace.
The world is in a state of flux and intercultural communications can be described as
(but not defined as) being the mechanism to share common meanings across cultures.
It is stated that attempts to share meanings across cultures are just as likely to fail as succeed. What is important to keep in mind is that communication will lead to clarification and enhanced understanding.
No one suggests that intercultural communication is easy. However, the reality is that even small businesses are now trading globally and we find ourselves living in increasingly multicultural countries — so the challenge has been set. If we wish to understand our neighbour, we must understand the way they live. If we wish to talk with them, we must learn their languages. If we wish to do business with them, we must understand their minds. We must build an emotional awareness of them and with them.
As we have seen, culture derives from the interconnected assumptions, beliefs, values, attitudes, norms and rules shared by a society or group. There are three layers of culture in society:
• The first level is visible. It encompasses the patterns and behaviour visible in a culture, including technology, buildings, artefacts and behaviour patterns.
• The second level is less visible than the first level. It is made up of cultural communication and describes how people communicate verbally and non-verbally as they explain, rationalise and justify what they say or do as a society or group.
• The third level is almost invisible and comprises the ideas, basic assumptions, values and beliefs held by a society. (Dwyer 2009, p. 36)
REALITY CHECK: Follow this YouTube link to see a great discussion of levels of culture in the workplace.
So creating an environment where cultural differences are accepted and common meanings can be shared is immensely challenging. It is the biggest challenge facing communication practitioners today. Studies have shown that cultural differences can be broadly summarised under four headings:
11.2 HOFSTEDE’S FINDINGS
Hofstede’s research of IBM in 1994 sets the benchmark for the discussion of major issues that can hinder the progress of intercultural communication. On page 128 of the Dwyer text you will find Table 5.3 Hofstede’s four dimensions of culture. Make sure you read and understand this.
This refers to the degree of acceptance members of a society have for inequalities in power and status. Cultures with high power distances accept inequality to a significant degree. They regard people in authority positions as being entitled to power and privilege. In lower power distance cultures, there are flatter hierarchies and greater equity.
Defined as how cultures differ in their attitudes to the well-being of the individual as opposed to that of the collective group. Individualist cultures assume that people look after themselves and their own interests first, with some extension of this to their immediate families. Such cultures focus on the ‘I’. Collectivist cultures expect people to belong to groups that look after the interests of their members, but expect unquestioning loyalty in return. These cultures focus on the ‘We’.
Masculine societies define gender roles very rigidly, and make clear distinctions between values and goals for men and women. Men are expected to be strong providers, while women are submissive and nurturing. Feminine cultures accept less clearly gender-defined roles — men are not expected to be leaders, women aren’t expected to be carers.
AVOIDANCE OF UNCERTAINTY
The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by circumstances or situations they perceive as unclear or ambiguous. They try to avoid such situations by having strict codes of behaviour and formal rules.
An understanding and appreciation of these and other cultural differences is vital in today’s business environment; globalisation and intercultural trade deals require considerable sensitivity to the needs and feelings of other societies.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this YouTube link to a 30 minute interview with Geert
Hofstede.in which he discusses culture.
11.3 THE CHALLENGE OF LANGUAGE
Language is strongly tied to culture and can provide some of the biggest barriers to intercultural communication. Different languages, unfamiliar words, intonation patterns and expressions can make spoken communication difficult, even impossible. Language problems in the workplace can be avoided by:
• Translating basic messages and instructions into the main minority languages.
• Conducting basic English classes, or offering incentives for people to learn English. This may also apply to native English speakers who have language problems.
• Encouraging bilingual people to become supervisors.
It has been said that English is becoming the universal language, but there can be some problems with direct translations. This writer worked for two years on a funded project called ‘Bargaining for Diversity’ which was looking into issues within enterprise bargaining for non-English speaking workers. The project identified 54 different language groups in the large fruit and juice manufacturing company with a wide diversity of reaction and understanding to words like police, union, army, government, citizen’s rights and many more common Australian meanings. Direct translations of documents became pointless until these common words were used with a shared understanding of its meaning. This process took two years.
Even intercultural communication between English-speaking countries can be tricky. Accents and the use of slang can really confuse things. Words like “rubber” may have a variety of different meanings to different cultural groups. Different systems of date notations can cause confusion too: 5/4/04 means 4 May 2004 in America, but 5 April
2004 in Australia and Europe. Imagine how important that could be for delivery deadlines.
The challenge is to find common meaning. In the past the dominant culture would impose its meaning without any regard to local custom. In this globalised and multicultural world, communication practitioners need to be working towards shared meaning rather that the imposition of one dominant meaning over all. One size, phrase, gesture and response does not fit all. Perhaps it never did.
WEEK 12 THE CHALLENGE OF NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION (NVC)
Key topics we will cover this week are:
• Defining types of NVC
• Finding understanding and avoiding misunderstanding
• Developing common meaning.
Textbook: Chapter 5, Negotiation and conflict management, pp 95-120.
Ober, S 1992, ‘The Challenge of Diversity’. Contemporary Business Communication. Houghton Mifflin. Dallas, Texas. Chapter 19, pp 632–642, 647–659.
We know that words have different meanings in different cultures. Non-verbal communication can be even harder to interpret. The meaning behind body language, gestures and nonverbal codes can vary significantly between cultures. Examples include:
• Personal space and the arrangement of rooms/offices.
• Gestures. No one gesture or body movement has the same meaning in all cultures. For example, in some eastern European countries, nodding your head means “No”. Even a smile doesn’t have the same meaning in all cultures.
• Eye contact. In some cultures it is impolite to maintain long eye contact; in others, not making eye contact is a mark of respect.
• Dress conventions. Sikhs in Woolgoolga were not allowed into the local club for many years because they refused to take off their turbans. Generally speaking, Americans dress more formally than Australians.
• Time. Attitudes towards time and punctuality can vary significantly between cultures. What may be seen as time-wasting in Australia or America may be seen as hospitality and generosity in Asia or Latin America.
• Paralanguage. Accent, intonation, phrases, and tempo — all of these are more cultural than shared.
• Proxemis. Simply put, this is the use of space between people.
• Silence. In many cultures this conveys deep meaning.
• Artefacts. Symbols and objects used to convey self-concept, image, mood, feelings or style.
Non-verbal communication tends to be more subconscious than conscious. People involved in intercultural communication sometimes overlook the effects of their non- verbal communication and the difficulties that can result from differences in them.
Cultural non-verbal communication is learned from others in the culture. It is characteristic of, or common to, a certain group of people.
Although there is no truly universal non-verbal communication, there are some gestures and cues that are widely recognised and understood by humankind, such as tears or an outstretched hand.
On page 52 of the Dwyer text, you will find Table 3.2 Classification of nonverbal communication followed by Table 3.3 on page 53 Categories of body movement. On page 54 you will find Table 3.4 Vocalisations. These three tables are perhaps the best quick reference for nonverbal communication I have encountered. Read and understand these thoroughly.
REALITY CHECK: Follow the YouTube link below to a fascinating presentation about body language. You may never be quite the same again!
12.1 UNDERSTANDING DIRECTNESS AND INDIRECTNESS
Cultural differences aren’t restricted to words and non-verbal communication. The approach to business and communication can also be significantly different. Traditional (and culturally honest) Anglo-Australian or American business behaviour is clear, direct, and to the point. By contrast, Japanese business people prefer a more indirect approach, subtle meanings where the point is not spelt out — an element of ambiguity is often preferred. ‘I’d like to reflect on your proposal for a while’ may mean ‘You’re dead wrong and you’d better come up with another idea pretty soon’.
The differences can be even closer to home. Aboriginal culture is much more indirect than Western culture. Aboriginal people approach one another more slowly and tentatively — they may talk about other people, not themselves, to identify kinship relations and common contacts. This is followed by circumspect interaction marked by long pauses. Power relationships are not represented in the same way as in Western culture. The most important person may not be the most talkative. The ideas of other groups are more important than individual beliefs. Aboriginal meetings may be used to ratify a group consensus rather than to establish one. People deadlines and big public meetings could become frustrated by what would be interpreted as delays. In a situation of potential conflict, behind the scenes discussions and negotiations with respected community members will achieve more. An indirect approach, although longer, is often most successful.
REALITY CHECK: Follow this YouTube link to a presentation of the meaning of direct and indirect communication.
12.2 FINDING MEANINGS NOT MISUNDERSTANDINGS
Business practices, language and nonverbal communication all vary across different culture. But did you know that the appropriate response to compliments also varies from culture to culture? If a person in Japan said, ‘You look really tired’, it was intended as a compliment. Japanese cultural norms also dictate that compliments should be responded to with an apology: ‘Your talk was very good’ ‘No it wasn’t’ etc. This may appear to be unnecessarily self-effacing to people with Western values, but it is no less appropriate than ‘thank you’.
Other cultures may have strict rules on who speaks first or last in a conversation. Some have a belief that avoiding eye contact during speech shows respect to a superior. These may send unintentional messages to people who are used to Western traditions and values, and might even be interpreted as discourtesy.
Ritual greetings are often a source of considerable confusion and misunderstanding. In Japan, the exchange of business cards or meishi is a social ritual and should not be rushed. Taking a Japanese business card without careful study can cause immense offence. Similarly, in parts of Eastern Europe it would be considered extremely rude for business people, including men, to greet one another without an exchange of hugs and a kiss on the cheek.
Guides to foreign etiquette and behaviour are available, but be wary of this ‘expert’ advice. ‘Instant enculturation’ can be based on stereotyping and superficial analysis. It is advisable to thoroughly check the qualifications and experience of those offering the advice before taking their advice. The best way to find out about a culture is to experience it directly!
12.3 ESTABLISHING COMMON MEANINGS
Now you know what sort of problems you’re likely to run into. But how do you get around them? The best way to overcome problems of communication, both intercultural and cross-cultural, is to be aware of your own cultural filters and influences, and to be empathetic.
• Make a conscious effort to achieve intercultural competence, that is, an awareness and understanding of the different values and practices of other cultures.
• Take more time to understand, check and record.
• Don’t jump to premature conclusions. Just because you find something discourteous or offensive doesn’t mean it was meant that way.
• Give accurate and clear feedback frequently, so that misunderstandings can be avoided and cleared up quickly if they do occur.
• Understand, don’t evaluate, and remember that our values are influenced by our culture.
• Be prepared to have a higher tolerance for ambiguity.
• Value diversity and difference. They make things more interesting!
• Call on more expert, experienced advice, from an expatriate national if possible. Use people in your own organisation from different backgrounds to give advice.
• Don’t rely on instant quick-fix, ‘how to survive in Asia’ type programs. Be aware that Asia, just like Europe, is made up of a huge diversity of cultures.
• Be prepared for culture shock, followed by acculturation or immersion.
• Be extra careful handling negative messages. Use a less direct approach with emphasis on courtesy. Avoid phrases that may appear cold or uncaring. Don’t use colloquial expressions or references to people not known outside your own culture.
• Retain your own cultural identity, but respect and adjust to the identity of others. (Japanese don’t expect Australians to be exactly like Japanese and
REALITY CHECK: Follow this link to a YouTube clip about what Asian students find weird about America. It’s just for fun!
Frankness and honesty in matters of difference are acceptable. Explain your own codes and conventions of behaviour and ask questions about others, for example the giving and receiving of gifts. The following questions and phrases may be useful:
• In our country we normally do …. Is your approach different?
• I don’t understand that. Could you please repeat it?
• Could you write down that name?
• Please call me … . What should I call you?
• I suggest that we proceed by looking at …or would you prefer a different approach?
• My understanding of our objective this morning is to …. Is this correct?
“One does not make the wind but one is blown by it.”
OTHER ACACEMIC SOURCES
Listed below are the names of areas of study as well as academic and other writers who have written useful texts around this week’s topic. This list may help you source more information. Try the Griffith Library or other academic search engines like Google Scholar.
COMMUNICATION ACROSS CULTURES
The discipline of Psychology has contributed significantly to our understanding of intercultural communication.
Read: Intercultural Encounters
Read: Intercultural communication
Read: Globalisation and Cultural Sensitivity
TROY AUSTIN, ATSIC
Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians do not always communicate the same way. Subtle differences in style can lead to misunderstandings and tensions. Listen to Troy Austin, Chairperson of ATSIC’s Tumbukka Regional Council, as he explores these communication challenges with Michael Wagner.
MICHAEL MEADOWS, GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY
Listen to Michael Meadows, Professor, School of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Griffith University and co-author of Songlines to Satellites as he looks at the situation from a non-Indigenous perspective. The interview is conducted by Michael Wagner.
WEEK 13 WHERE HAVE WE BEEN?
No set reading this week.
There is no set reading for this week. Use your study time this week to hone your final piece of assessment. Your final report should show you have read and applied the ideas presented in the Study Guide, your text book and your additional readings. We are looking for evidence that you have been able to draw together the connections between the theory and communication in the business environment. Consider too the work you have completed through your Independent Learning Tasks. These tasks were set quite deliberately to give you an opportunity to practice some of the skills you will draw on in producing this final report. We hope they will also be helpful to you in your work life too. Use this week to revisit some of the topics we have covered and to consider how the ideas presented are manifested in your own work environment.
COM12, Business Communication is one of the introductory units in the Business Communication major. If you have enjoyed this unit, please check the OUA website for other units available from Griffith University in this field.
Some final words about our aims over the past 13 weeks.
In this unit, we have introduced you to the study of business communication. On a real world level, we have tried to connect you into the sorts of expectations that modern businesses have about the role of a Communications Practitioner within their organisation. Whether you are an aspiring manager, an administrator or are on the first rungs of the corporate ladder, much of the information contained in this course will help you to be a better communicator.
Throughout the unit, we demonstrated the intertwined nature of leadership, management and communication. Indeed, communication is the major tool available to anyone who works in an organisation. Poor communications skills are key reasons why seemingly simple messages are misinterpreted, causing confusion and tension.
In this unit, we have also introduced concepts like emotional intelligence, empathy, active listening, non-verbal communication cues and responsiveness as traits a communicator needs to be constantly aware of. We all need to understand each other better and we hope that some of these techniques outline in COM12 will help to enhance your own communications both at work and in your personal relationships. No matter what field you work in, the ability to communicate effectively is essential.
COM12 has outlined various communication models to help you analyse what is really happening when you send out a message. These models have been evolving as rapidly and as part of the revolution that has occurred in the business world over the last sixty years.
We believe that all the information, platforms, techniques and traits discussed above and through the Unit will help you navigate your way through communication in business at an entry level.
MODULE 1 COMMUNICATION IS BUSINESS