Managing messages

Published on May 30, 2021   32 min

A selection of talks on Management, Leadership & Organisation

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Hello, I'm Professor James Barker from Dalhousie University in Canada. I'm a professor of Organizational Behavior and Leadership and that's where I primarily teach the courses that I teach in general management principles, organizational behavioral principles, and leadership. That's really what I'm going to talk about today. When we talk about managing messages, I'm going to talk about how you manage those messages as a manager and how you use messages to help you manage in a useful and positive way.
When we use the word managing we tend to give it a negative connotation. We think that it's bad somehow, but it's critically important that we manage messages so that how we make sense of those messages moves in a useful positive direction to help us create the value that we need to create. In a human organization, messages and making sense of messages is what we do minute-by-minute day-in-day-out. Our world of managing, our world of working in organizations is all about making sense of messages. We don't give it the credit really that it deserves or we don't see the importance that it has, but it's pivotal that we be sensitive to how well the messages that we send work and do they move us in the direction that they need to move us in? That's going to be the subject of my talk today and how we're going to proceed.
The first element of managing messages that we have to be sensitive to and aware of is that it really looks easy. We think that it's easy because we do it all the time, but the reality is quite different. We send messages all the time, and thus it looks easy to us and we communicate all the time and that's what we do day in and day out in the organization. The issue is that we assume that our messages get across as we intended. That's a very bad assumption. It goes back to the point of making sense. We forget when we send a message, the various stakeholders whether it's employees like internal stakeholders, say our direct reports, or whether it's an external stakeholder to the organization like a customer. They're always trying to make sense of that. What you do not have when you send a message is control over how sense is made of that message. That's the different reality of it. It's that lack of control that you have over how the message is understood and acted on. It's very complex. Again, we fail oftentimes to give our sending of message is in organizations the appreciation for the complexity that it has. Our ability to make sense is very complex, very sophisticated, very complicated. That's why we have to focus on managing the messages. Because we do not have any kind of guarantee of the successful communication. Any time that we send a message, there's no guarantee that it's going to be interpreted or the sense made of it in the way we intended. That's why managing messages becomes key. We can never rest on the assumption that what works today will work tomorrow because it very well may not work. We have to focus in on thinking through and working with managing the messages that we send. What do we need to do to effectively manage messages and to help improve the probability that the sense that the stakeholders will make of that message again, whether it's internal or external stakeholders, what can we do to help ensure that we can manage that message effectively and that our intent comes across generally with a good probability of coming across in the way that we intended? Three key things that we need to do.