For the past month, I’ve been on a “remote working” theme. It started with
8 Ways to Support the Remote Worker, which led me to
12 Ways to Successfully Manage the Remote Worker, which led me to
This last post got me thinking about the “4 Dimensions of Communication” and how we, as business owners, managers or supervisors, need to ensure our communication is in an effective modality (for lack of a better word) to optimize engagement and understanding.
What are the 4 Dimensions of Communication?
Rick Thomas, President and CEO of The Chariot Group, has often used the concept of “dimensions of communication” with me and his team. I have started to use it when talking with clients about improving their engagement, communication and outputs. To explain this concept, Rick tells a story about how workplace communication tools have evolved:
- 1st Dimension
These are phone conversations. We are able to communicate with each other but can only use verbal and para-verbal cues. (Verbal cues are what words we say, the formality in which we speak, the organization of our thoughts, etc. Para-verbal cues re how we sound when we speak such as our speed, what words we emphasize, our volume, etc.)
- 2nd Dimension
These are video conferences. We are able to communicate with each other and, because we can see each other, we can use and benefit from the use of non-verbal communication cues. (Nonverbal cues are how we look when we are communicating with others.)
- 3rd Dimension
These are audiovisual conferences with presentation tools added to them. We can see, hear and interact with the presenter and we can see what he/she is presenting to us such as a PowerPoint presentation, a graph or visual of some sort, his/her notes on a whiteboard, etc. The exchange between the individuals is two-way but the information the speaker is sharing is only one-way.
- 4th Dimension
These are audiovisual conferences with collaboration tools added to them. We can see, hear and interact with the presenter and we can edit, add, and collaborate with them on a document, drawing, presentation, notes, etc. Both the exchange between the individuals and the information they are sharing online is two-way.
These dimensions play directly into “perceived distance” and “belonging” (discussed in I Want to Be a Part of Your Team) and, thus, have a significant impact on engagement and performance.
Lest you think I am suggesting you MUST invest in audiovisual, collaborative technology, let me assure you I am not! There is a time and place for each type of communication and I am merely suggesting you sincerely think about what is needed.
If your team needs to engage in a higher dimension, you are doing them a disservice by crippling them with a lower one.
Likewise, if you’re utilizing one of the higher dimensions and it wasn’t needed, you are doing your organization a disservice by sucking up network or cloud-based resources.
I’m an educator by trade and have been performing “adult learning” and “training” activities throughout my career. I appreciate the importance of identifying the means and methods of how to educate, inform or otherwise engage the class participants. Trainers naturally think of things like:
- “will I use a PPT or other visual reference?”
- “do I need course materials for the students to write on and/or reference later?”
- “how should I set up the room for optimum learning?”
- “if we’ve got remote participants, what will they have access to/what can they see and what will I see or be able to do with them?” or
- “what are some safe assumptions I can make about the audience’s learning styles?” (Oh, goody, this is going to lead me to ANOTHER post about learning styles!)
Imagine the increased understanding and decreased “do overs” if you were to put some pro-active thought into HOW you will choose to interact with your team!
Imagine the increased productivity and the heightened efficiencies if you reconsidered HOW your team is currently interacting with each other!
And imagine the increased service quality and employee ownership if you re-assessed HOW you and your team are currently interacting with your clients, contractors and other stakeholders.
The 4 Dimensions of Communication are powerful things…imagine the possibilities of using them well!