By Michael Bone
Perhaps nothing is more discussed as a topic in business than communication. As an almost obvious tenet of effective leadership, it’s a wonder why the world needs hundreds of thousands of books on the topic. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw summed it up best when he wrote, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” (Source)
I’ve certainly witnessed and have been guilty of poor communication. For our purposes here, though, I want to share an example of highly effective communication from a business leader. When I was just starting my career, I worked for a manufacturer. The president, Jim Tiffany, was a fiery guy and a passionate leader. As I reflect back on those early days of my career, I see that it was Jim’s ability to effectively communicate that set him apart.
There was never a question of what Jim wanted to do with the business or what we needed to do to accomplish our objectives. The entire office staff of 80 people met weekly on Friday mornings to get updates on the customers, the production issues, expectations and a regular reminder of the vision, purpose and strategy. As I liked to say, you knew where the bus was headed and you could either get on board or get out of the way.
Even though it’s been 16 years since I worked for the late Jim Tiffany, I still remember his vivid description of the “gushy ball.” He used this metaphor to illustrate how each of us was interdependent on the rest of the business. If production “pushes” on one side of the ball, then the planning department is pushed out on the other side of the ball.
Do you realize how your work affects your organization’s gushy ball? When you make a decision as a marketing manager, how are you affecting the sales team’s side of the ball? It’s a simple visual but that’s what makes it so valuable.
Remember the gushy ball. I’ll never forget it.
Michael Bone is the Management Controller for the Global Biology Unit of Ceva Sante Animale, a top 10 global animal health company. He earned a bachelor’s in accounting from the University of St. Francis and a MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management. Feel free to connect with Michael on LinkedIn.