If you are following my cohort Holly Hibner on her blog, you know she is moving on to the Plymouth District Library in Plymouth, Michigan. It is a great library and much larger in scope and budget. Plymouth is lucky to get her! The changes around at both our libraries have led us to many great discussions on librarian training and supervisor issues. Both of us have talked in great length on what makes a good librarian and what makes a good manager.
Good communication is the heart of good management. However, what everyone misses is that it takes at least two people to communicate. I have often heard folks say "I told that person a hundred times..." and then they can't understand why there is still a problem. I have also heard folks complain endlessly about meetings that never go anywhere or are not fruitful. Throw into the mix cultural, personality or gender issues and things get even more clouded.
One of the books that really helped sharpen this topic for me was Type Talk at Work: How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job by Kroeger (2002). Each person is a unique personality and learn or listen or think in very different ways. Problems occur when we fail to understand the personalities in play.
Holly and I are great examples of this personality difference. She is an internal processor. I am more external, meaning I have to "talk it out". Communication problems happen when we fail to recognize this about each other. When Holly speaks, I know she has thought about what she is saying and to take it seriously. When I speak, Holly knows to take it with a grain of salt until we have dissected what I am saying a bit more. It is not a personal judgement, it is simply a fact on how we think and communicate.
Both employee and employer should think about this every time they have a discussion. Both parties should know how they listen, think and communicate before they try and make assumptions about the other party. This has great implications for things like written instructions, verbal instructions, talking through problems and every one's favorite: having a meeting.
So if you have ever said or thought the following, it might be time for some rethinking:
"I wish so and so would read email, I always have to tell her/him ...."
"I have told so and so a million times to do...."
"No one ever reads a sign... it is right in front of them!"
What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you find this happening to you, think about your style as a communicator and as a listener. Now everyone take a breath and rethink your thinking!