Do we have communications intelligence?

Categories: Rotary DownUnder.

You’ll have heard of IQ, and you’ll have heard of EQ. But what about CQ?

IQ tests intelligence (although there is some debate about that). EO is a measure of the amount of emotional intelligence you have – some call it empathy and feeling how others feel.

But what’s CQ? CO is Communications Intelligence. It’s a serious term in ·the military, where it refers to obtaining information through various forms of electronic surveillance and using that to fashion your own response.

In a non-military context, Communications Intelligence is communicating with intention and effect. And doing it well is what counts. That means fashioning messages that will be received and acted upon by the intended audience, using channels that enable the intended recipients to receive, process and understand your messages easily and then act on them; and the mutual ability of sender and receiver to know that this is what will happen.

Many organisations, commercial and non-commercial alike, are constantly seeking feedback about how they are performing. Customer satisfaction surveys are rife.

In the professional speaking industry, speakers talk of the “eight speeches” rule. There is the speech you are invited to give; the one you prepare; the one you practise; the one you actually give; the one the audience hears; the one you are thanked for; the one you give in the car on the way home (usually the best one of the lot); and the one that is reported.

“The literature about communications is now vast and it has expanded greatly in the last two decades by incorporating the findings of research in neuro-Ii nguistics.”

They are all different, which illustrates several points. What you set out to say and what you actually say are usually different. What you say and what is heard are not the same thing. Also, what the audience wanted to hear and what your speech (or communication) was about are often different. Intention and delivery are different; so are delivery and response.

The literature about communications is now vast, and it has expanded greatly in the past two decades by incorporating the findings of research in neuro-linguistics. The great explosion of the marketing communications, public relations and social media industries have contributed, too.

Communications Intelligence, or CQ, follows from the work undertaken by a research foundation set up by the International Association of Business Communicators, a body of professional communicators in business, not-forprofits, academia, the military and the community.

The foundation study found a strong relationship between high performance in business and excellence in communications practice.

It described four models of communications (terms used are taken from the study):

  • Press agentry: striving for favourable publicity, particularly in mass media.
  • Public information : in-house communicators distribute relatively objective information to the news media and communicate with important audiences through controlled media, such as in-house newsletters.
  • Two-way asymmetrical: using survey research to identify messages that are most likely to persuade audiences to behave as the organisation wishes them to behave.
  • Two-way symmetrical: using research and communication to manage conflict and improve understanding with strategic audiences. This is dialogue, not persuasion, as in the two-way asymmetrical approach.

The CEOs of the top performing organisations around the world favoured the two-way symmetrical approach over the other three.

Communicating clearly what the organisation was all about was front and centre.

So, a working definition of Communications Intelligence might be “the capacity, commitment and carrying out of excellent communications practices” .

In turn, excellent communications practices involve at least some, and preferably most or all of these characteristics:

  • Communication is a continuous and ongoing feature of organisational life.
  • It flows up, down and around the organisation in a deliberately planned and relatively systematic way (an active rumour mill is not evidence of good communications practice).
  • The communications are interactive – they enable feedback and the original messages are modified by that feedback. People can see that feedback does change communications and organisational behaviour.
  • There is an organisational com mitmentto good communication practice, not just from the leadership, but also by middle and lower levels in the organisations. In short: communications matter, and everyone knows that and works at that. It may be led from the top, but it is practised throughout. A common theme was to “beware the soggy middle”. In large organisations, middle level managers often (but not always) block or fail to pass on messages fully, reinterpret what they have been told, or misuse what they know to maintain their own positions and deny knowledge to their subordinates.
  • The means by which the organisation can communicate with its key audiences (for example, staff, customers and stakeholders) are well known, visible, frequently used and predictable. The audiences can respond and be heard, and that is known by all parties.

Translating this to Rotary, we have to ask, what does Rotary stand for and how well have we communicated that? As Jack Welch of General Electric once put it, “Of the many ways leaders can boost their odds of success, one is an absolute must: make sure your people know what you stand for.”

What does Rotary stand for? It stands for service: service in the community, to the nation and internationally. Service in the causes of peace, education, providing food and water, a diseasefree world, of promoting international understanding and health and wellbeing for all humanity.

Communicating service – what we do – and communicating service – the value we achieve – can then become the organising principle of all our communications.