May I suggest the Golden Rule, this one, and William Holden? Regardless of what island, company or planet you inhabit, this post will help you change that world for the better.
The Core Idea
There are 4 “modes” of communication. Whenever we communicate we are doing so in one or more of the following :
- The mode of Complaint
- The mode of Information
- The mode of Creation
- The mode of Inspiration
Each has a different impact. If you learn those impacts and apply each mode correctly you can exceed your objectives dramatically with much less effort.
The Impact and Application of the Four Modes of Communication
1. The mode of Complaint
- Examples of things we communicate when using this Mode: Our problems. Others’ failings. Past errors.
- Impact: Drains energy from the person communicating as well as his/her audience
- Recommended Use: None. Avoid this like trans fats. Stop it when you see it.
2. The mode of Information
- Examples of things we communicate when using this Mode: What we have done. How we have done it. Data. Methodology. Process. Background.
- Impact: Provides valuable inputs but, on its own, doesn’t change anything
- Recommended Use: Do this off-line whenever possible. Summarize. Do exception reporting. Draw or propose implications.
3. The mode of Creation
- Examples of things we communicate when using this Mode: Joint problem-solving. Options. Evaluations. Advocacy. Joint decision-making.
- Impact: Most productive mode because something is going to change as a result of the communication.
- Recommended Use: This is the mode in which you want to be as much of the time as possible, especially in meetings, because this is the mode that moves things forward.
4. The mode of Inspiration
- Examples of things we communicate when using this Mode: Big Goals. Emotions/Passion. Aspects of a desired future result. Expressed confidence in ability to reach it. Confidence in or admiration for people involved.
- Impact: Expands people’s sense of the Possibilities. It leads to more than the expected happening.
- Recommended Use: Build some element of this into all communications.
Putting it to Work
I’ve read and forgotten a boatload of teamwork/management stuff over the years and, in contrast, this 4 part communication rule has stayed with me. It is the pasta of this space — easy, flexible and always hits the spot. Here are a few application insights:
- Moving information exchange out of meetings (e.g. shared electronically beforehand) ensures that scarce meeting time is used for the really productive modes of creation and inspiration.
- Eliminating Complaint does not mean burying problems. Anything that can be said in the mode of Complaint can be said in the mode of Creation: Once you tune into that it is easy to make the shift without losing valuable candor and awareness of the issues.
- When I first heard all this, the mode of Inspiration examples were President Kennedy’s Man on the Moon speech and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. This left me feeling that the mode of Inspiration was for monumental events and great orators, not for me. But with more thought I realized that things such as expressing confidence in a colleague, team or employee, or reiterating the value of our goal provide inspiration. And these things can be built into every communication.
- I have occasionally shared this model with teams when a project is kicking off. It seems to resonate and sets some efficient norms up front.
Attribution: If I knew who originally came up with this modeI I would give full credit and send many accolades! I was exposed to this at a company-wide management course at Agilent. Please write in if you know the source.