What can we learn about communication from great drama?

At the end of a great day, having then helped my wife bath and read stories to three (nearly four) kids, I love nothing better than cooking some food and watching some great telly. We’re very lucky here in the UK as we get some awesome television on the BBC – whether it is in the form of soap operas like Eastenders, or gripping drama series like Spooks or Luther.

One of the keys to writing great drama is the use of (or lack of) communication – and its not a recent innovation. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet takes a sleeping drug and sends a messenger to Romeo to advise him of the plan. The messenger never gets through and thinking that Juliet is dead, Romeo poisons himself, with Juliet then awaking and stabbing herself.

The drama results from the viewer knowing what is going on whilst the characters do not. Why hasn’t the messenger got through? Will they find out in time? As a viewer you almost want to shout out “She’s not dead! She’s just sleeping!”

In many modern dramas and soap operas you’ll find an absence of mobile phones and a plethora of assumptions. Instead of asking someone where they were, or what they were discussing, the drama allows the characters to make assumptions. We the viewer know exactly what was said, and revel in watching the wrong decisions being made as harmless situations such as a friendly chat between friends is misconstrued and escalates into a great story line.

Don’t let your business become a soap opera

In business the same scenario can play out. Lack of communication compensated with assumptions. It’s all to easy to assume what another team’s plan is, to assume that they know what yours is. It’s all to easy to forget to communicate with your fellow employees and just focus on your own work.

You cannot over communicate. It’s not possible. If you are big enough you should have a Chief Communication Officer. Here are some suggestions of tactics they might implement and manage.

Corporate social network

Whether its Chatter, Yammer, Jive or any other service – get a social network in place and drive its use from the top of the business down. Communicate with your teams about forecasts, campaigns, competition, customer wins through this medium. Get people talking. Get people working as a team.

Quarterly all hands meeting

These are so powerful for your teams. Don’t just schedule them out into the future and pitch up on the day with some stats. Give your teams something unique, new, something they couldn’t get anywhere else. Tell them why your company is going to blow the competition away. This is your rock concert, your opportunity to hype and motivate your team.

Exec blog/newsletter

How many companies have said “Welcome to the first edition of our CEO’s newsletter”? Lots. How many have said that about a second or third edition? Very few. If you are going to write communications then make it regular (not necessarily often, but regular) and give unique exciting news. All of that stuff you discuss in the Board Meeting that is way too important for the team? That is the stuff to put in it. Think about the terrible newsletters you receive in your inbox and delete. Don’t write one of them.

Volunteering

Companies spend a fortune on team building days attempting to build bridges between departments. Why don’t you go and build some real bridges with a wildlife trust, or knock down some real walls at a social redevelopment? You will give your teams great stories to talk about back in the office, having done some real team building and great work at the same time.

I hope some of these ideas inspire you to communicate more. The next time you are watching a great drama, and seeing a situation spiral out of control because of poor communication, commit to yourself that you won’t let that happen in your business.

Have you ever misconstrued something within your business? How have you improved the way your teams communicate? I’d love to know your stories of poor (and great) communication in the comments section below!

Charlie Cowan inspires and enables partners at NewVoiceMedia, a Salesforce Appexchange partner routing inbound calls based on CRM data. Unusually for someone in the IT industry, Charlie holds a degree in Rural Land Management from The Royal Agricultural College. He lives and works in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, with his wife and three children.