If information is power, how powerful is your team?

07/17/2016 04:53 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2017

'Information' is a bit of a catch-all term. It feels both vitally important, but also a bit generic and nebulous. How do you evolve from a transactional 'information' approach to organisational and team communication to a more sophisticated, engagement-led model in order to let the transcendent story of the team and organisation shine through? Everything you communicate, how you communicate it, and how you respond to feedback received should seek to ensure that the stated values and culture in an organisation match up with the experienced values and culture.

But what kind of 'information' really needs to be communicated in organisations to support an engagement-led communication approach; what else is needed? Providing 'information' - or instruction as so commonly is the case in organisational communication - without the benefit of context, background and perspective, and opportunities for feedback is sharing only part of the picture and having only a partial conversation.

There are, broadly, two types of information that people require to do their jobs well, and both types require context, background and perspective to feel complete: the big picture and the practical, day-to-day. Missing elements from either of these, can create uncertainty, frustration and negatively impact individual and team performance.

Here are a few examples...

Big picture information:

I don't know what our long-term strategy is and how I'm expected to help deliver it.

I don't know about best practice and innovation that is generated in other parts of the organisation and therefore I'm not able leverage it in our team - and even worse - we may be wasting resources by duplicating effort.

I don't know what decisions are made at the senior leadership level - or why...

I don't know if my manager is happy with my performance - I know their view of me has an impact on my career prospects and therefore I'm feeling uncertain.

I understand that we're on a change journey, but I don't get a sense of what the destination is or when we'll get there.

Day-to-day information:

I don't know which team members are responsible for specific activities; roles and responsibilities aren't clear.

I don't know when, how or what format the progress updates on my work need to be provided.
I don't know what decisions I can make autonomously or when I need approval.

I don't know when team members are in the office, working from home or on business travel - so I don't know how to suggest effective collaboration.

I don't know how the key processes in my organisation are managed, documented or improved - it feels like we're always re-inventing the wheel.

Context, background, perspective

Context - This is how you describe the 'climate' of an issue. These are the internal or external forces working for or against communication effectiveness.

Background - This is the organisational memory. Perhaps it's even spawned a number of myths, rumours and legends - even characters that were perceived as heroes or villains. In your organisation there's probably an issue or two that everyone says the exact same thing about - nearly verbatim - and despite the fact that it may or may not be true, it's accepted as truth and therefore needs to factor into messaging, with either an acknowledgment or something that helps to set the record straight.

Perspective - This is the 'official position' on an issue, the north star of messaging that should never change; never deviate. This is what creates real strength in messaging. All proof points should seek to reinforce the perspective that is being communicated and this is where the culture and values of the organisation should really punch through. Perspective is the 'what we stand for' element of messaging.

Information is power. Create a powerful team with an engagement-led approach to communication that includes context, background and perspective - and opportunities for feedback.

A transactional approach to communication leads to transactional outputs and engagement-led approach leads to engaged teams.