Talk to me!

Kevin Munt in Consultancy


In the second of his articles, Kevin Munt, Principle Consultant at KMgC says that asking your colleagues to "get those bl**dy greens cut faster" may not be the best approach!

"If knowledge is princely and wisdom makes a king of man, then communication must be his domain"

Very grandiose I hear you say; well yes it may be. In the year 2000, whilst the CEO of Impact Europe, an Audio Visual communications company, I was asked to write an article on communication and the above words of wisdom are what I led the article with. I repeat it here, as I believe that the sentiment within it is even more relevant today and highly relevant to the audience reading this article.

Communication is a basic function of life, human interaction is difficult without it and its importance in business cannot be overemphasised; yet it is surprising how often it is the main cause of failure in the management of organisations.

Small Talk Goes A Long Way…

This spring I was at Walton Heath Golf Club with Ian McMillan and it really struck me how he went out of his way to approach both members and guests, asking them how they were enjoying their day and the golf course. Remember, this is with me in tow, so if they had any grievances he was exposing himself to me being a party to them. Of course there weren't any moans only praise. Ian was doing what good communicators do, engaging, listening and responding. In effect breaking down barriers, barriers that can become very big without small talk.KevinMunt.jpg

When I started out in golf course maintenance in the early seventies, there were a lot of greenkepers who would run to the deepest rough rather than having to communicate with people of authority or, for that matter, the wage payers. Well time, thankfully, has changed all that and now good Course Managers and Turf Managers generally are, by definition, good communicators.

Soft Skills, Hard Facts

If you want to get into the science of communication there is a myriad of technical psychobabble on the topic available to you. For example you could start by understanding the 'Communication Transmission Processes'.

Message > Encoding > Channel > Decoding > Receiver > Feedback >

Or get an encompassing definition, like this reasonably succinct one taken from the Web: 'Communication is only successful when the intended result is achieved. This effectiveness is dependent on the choice of recipient, the clarity of the message and the choice of communication medium'.

There are also very qualified people like Frank Newberry, who can help you develop your 'soft skills' in this area.

KISS it better

However, you are busy people and I have limited space here, so I recommend the highly dependable KISS method: Keep It Simple Stupid. No, that does not mean that a phrase such as: "get that those bl**dy greens cut faster" is the communication route to take. In fact, if you are communicating well, you will not get to the point of using phrases that send out signals of anger, panic and disrespect.

All you have to do to keep the message simple is to think about what you want to achieve and who you have got to convince. Remember that you are the information 'source' and, as such, what you are about to say is important to all concerned, so make it count.

Be clear about why you're communicating, and what you want to communicate. Delivering messages effectively often means breaking down barriers and that means you have to understand your audience's culture and background.

How you talk to your eastern European immigrant labour, trainee greenkeeper, your boss and your members will require different approaches and, hopefully, some 'pre-tongue' brain engagement.

If your message is too lengthy, disorganised, or contains errors, you can expect the message to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Too much information too fast, also use of poor verbal and body language, will also confuse the message.

You should also be confident that the information you're communicating is useful and accurate.

Need a communication stylist?

Self-awareness is important in communication, how do others perceive you? Understanding your personal communication style will help you create the right impression on others, an impression that will last.

This does not mean that you have to have a personality transplant to suit everyone you meet, just understand what makes another person more comfortable with you. Remember that, if someone is comfortable with you, they will want to receive your message and, in turn, give you information or feedback. This is information that you may well want to be aware of! In doing this, you will become a listener, the more passive, but no less vital element of good communication.

Listen to what I am saying

People can listen to 300 words per minute but can only speak at up to 175 words per minute. This means that our minds have capacity going to waste. So, what do we do with that spare capacity? We look out of the window, plan our evening's activities or wonder how we can get bent to establish more quickly in our greens. Once we have cracked this conundrum (in our minds), we realise that we have not been listening to this boring person sitting opposite. The key here is to make sure that the message we want to deliver is of interest and takes up the minimum thinking time of the recipient.

By the way, if you have a tendency to drift off and not concentrate on what someone is saying, but want to be a more pro-active listener try repeating their words mentally as they say it. This will reinforce their message and help you control your mind drift. Remember why you are listening to them in the first place, is it to gain information, obtain direction, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels or just show support?

Non-verbal communication

I have to admit whenever I read or hear someone talk about this element of communication skill I switch off. I just find it so hard to be sitting there trying to read what a person is telling me if they are folding their arms, putting their head in their hands or scratching their bum. This said, when an attractive woman flashes her eyes at me I do take extra special attention (especially as it is so rare these days!).

This is the crux of non-verbal communication really, just make sure that the signals you are giving out attract not detract.

Come again?

Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear, so don't be afraid to repeat back or summarise to ensure that you have been understood. When you are the message recipient use phrases like "What I thought you just said is 'annual meadow grass is the most prolific grass in golf greens in the UK'; is that what you meant?" Remember that what someone says and what we hear can be amazingly different!

So, think your message first, keep it short and concise, make it both timely and at the right time and make good communication your domain.

About the author: Kevin Munt is Principle Consultant of KMgC, a management consultancy specialising in the Golf Club development and operational management.

During his career in golf Kevin has been the Course Manager at The Wentworth Club, Royal Dornoch and Hankley Common golf clubs. Project Manager at Golf Club Pfaffing, Germany, Golf d'Apermont, France, The London and Buckinghamshire golf clubs in the UK and was the Operations Manager at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club during the first four years of its business life.

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