April 15, 2011
Tom Intven
LO President

tom intven Let’s think for a moment about the technological advances in communication in the last 10 years, and how astounding they have been. It’s profound how those advances have influenced our lives: cell phones, blackberries, GPS units, laptops, iPods, iPhones, email, Skype, Facebook, blogs…the list goes on.

While these tools have changed the way we communicate and the amount of time we dedicate to it, not all the changes have been for the better.

From an association perspective, good communication among our members, staff, chapters, sectors, committees and partners is essential
While it might appear that new technologies have made communication easier, they have introduced several barriers that need to be identified and addressed in order to keep our association healthy and focused.

Information overload

In this technological world, we are bombarded with information from all fronts. It’s difficult to keep up with it all; to read it all, absorb it, prioritize it, and respond and to include all the right parties in your correspondence.

We assume too much

One negative effect that the technological age has had on all of us is that we have come to assume too much from our communications. When we send an email, or post something on our website, or even check to see if someone has opened our email or attachment, we assume that 1. they have read it, 2. they have absorbed it and 3. why haven’t they responded yet?

We often assume that electronic or written communication is as effective as verbal, or even face-to-face communication. Nothing is further from the truth. We are human beings who absorb information best when someone talks to us in person, and we are able to respond in kind. Let’s not forget that experts tell us that the majority of information is communicated in face-to-face meetings by non-verbal means such as body language, posture, intonation, facial expression, and eye contact.  

Another common assumption is that other parties are on the same page as we are and able to absorb the same information that we bring to the table, because after all, the email with attachments was sent out. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are too busy to absorb it all

We are all trying to keep up with the challenges of the new economy in our businesses. Most of us have busy family and community lives that demand more and more of our time. Yet, in our harried lives, we are expected to find the time to read and respond to our emails, our telephone calls, spend time on Facebook to get caught up, as well as stay current on what is going on in every aspect of our personal and professional lives. It is physically impossible to do! At some point in time, communication breakdown is bound to happen.

For Landscape Ontario, it is essential that our lines of communication among our multi-faceted components are effective. By effective, I mean that accurate, appropriate and expected information is disseminated on a timely basis to the correct parties. That information is absorbed and prioritized, and feedback is received within a reasonable time frame, ultimately putting all parties on the same page.

In order to maintain those lines of communication, I believe we need to return to some fundamental principles:
  • First, we need to try to slow down and focus on what is most important. In a world of information overload, it is easy to get side-tracked on issues that do not speak to our core values. We are all strapped for time. Let’s make sure that we utilize it to the fullest and focus our energy on what is most important.
  • Prioritizing information, both when communicating and when receiving communications, is paramount. Let’s only send out what is important, let’s focus on the positive, and leave the negative behind.
  • We must all remember that communication is a two-way street! The corollary of this is that we have a responsibility to, not just communicate our thoughts, but to actively pursue a response. When we fail to be responded to, we are tempted to make assumptions that very often are way off base. It is only when we receive a response that our communication is complete and that we can achieve consensus.
  • We must never make assumptions. So many times when communication breakdown occurs, it is because the wrong assumptions are made. Let’s make sure our facts are correct, before we move on.
  • Let’s keep all the right people informed on a regular basis.
It is time that, as an association, we get back to the basics of face-to-face communication. In my presidency, what has become increasing clear to me is that nothing is as effective as face-to-face communication. As human beings, I believe we need and crave it in order to fulfil ourselves.

The important pieces that define our association need to be communicated in person in order to be effective. Good old-fashioned face-to-face communication is time consuming and takes more effort on our part, but it is so important to do in order to ensure the long term success of Landscape Ontario.
Tom Intven may be reached at 519-631-1008, or tintven@landscapeontario.com.