Engaging college leaders in creating communication principles and healthy practices
Selkirk College is committed to creating a culture of authentic leadership. To that end, they conducted a campus-wide Communication Audit Survey that revealed a variety of areas for improvement. In short, the survey revealed that there was a need for a common set of communication values reflected in and demonstrated consistently by leaders’ approaches/practices amongst their peers and with staff – thereby, embedding supportive behaviours as part of “the way we do business” here. At stake was the risk of merely responding to these results “as a problem to be fixed” when, in fact, they were a set of “symptoms” of larger, systemic influences.
Such a survey reflected responses to a wide array of aspects connected to campus “communications” – structures, protocols, types – and the “expectations” that participants might have around each area. It was determined that attempting to respond to ALL elements was both unreasonable and unrealistic. Consequently, a more “strategic” approach was undertaken. Senior leaders chose to focus attention on a “high leverage” point – the one thing that, if changed, would likely effect improvement in all other aspect areas. They chose to invest in the following:
- engaging system-wide perspectives/assumptions on what defines and structures effective communication, expectations and practices – coming to a common ground of shared agreement and understanding on Guiding Principles….From such a shared understanding, leaders will be able to
- identify what is needed in their workplace environment in order to be a more effective communicator; what behaviours and structures will support success – ways of taking more responsibility for own behaviour and impact from communication interactions…Such conversations allowed participants to
- explore their respective experience of day-to-day communication interactions from their unique place/position in the greater organizational system – offering their unique points of view “as information” from which the system as a whole can become informed and learn from itself.
The initial work focused simply on how the survey results might be interpreted differently by different departments across the campus — revealing common ground perspectives that were not realized before. These influences directly affected how individual leaders reacted to the survey data, how it shaped their respective thinking about what should be done, and how important it was to have collective “conversations” across departments in order to establish a shared understanding within their diversity. This work also addressed some of the core enablers and inhibitors to becoming more effective communicators.
The outcomes from this initiative were carried forward within each school and department by engaging staff to build upon their existing strengths while identifying their own unique (cultural) approaches to upholding the identified communication principles and practices within and across schools and departments.
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