“I need communication skills training”

How many times would an LOD Manager or consultant have heard that one? It seems to be the one true constant in the business world today, nearly all problems can be solved by improving someone’s (or a team’s) “communication skills”.  Given that we have just passed through the Christmas period where our ability to communicate, or hold back, may mean the difference between an uneventful Christmas lunch with the family or World War 3 I was thinking about the ability to communicate as a critical life and work skill.

I think that there would be few people who would argue that “communication skills”, the ability to get your message across to others appropriately, has always been an important part of the world of work. I would argue that it is getting more and more important as organisations become more complex and more highly networked. People are being asked to work in cross-functional teams, virtual teams, across countries/cultures/time zones. It’s a potential minefield. But will traditional communication skills training be the answer? Will the same old presentation skills/listening/emotional intelligence/courageous conversations type programmes cut it in the new, more complex organisational world?

My answer is obviously no. While these programmes can be helpful at times they will not really help host a teleconference at 11pm with representatives from Asia, North America, South America and Europe on it. Courses like this will not offer the necessary relationship building skills that our staff will need to be successful as the world becomes increasingly global and complex. Learning networks are becoming increasingly important but do enough people have the networking and reflection skills to really benefit from these situations.

Communication is everything within a complex system, but it’s not communication as we know it.

One a related note, I have found a good blog from the UK which was recommended to me recently. Clive Shepherd does a blog on e-learning and has recently reported on a survey in the UK that gives some insight into how people are really learning at work – you might be surprised. Happy reading!