posted 29 May 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 7
The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Communication
Editor: Jack Gordon
Publication date: October 2007
Reviewed by Lucy McNulty
COMMUNICATION IS arguably the single most important dynamic in the human context, affecting relationships among friends, colleagues, cultures, groups and even nations. Indeed the ability to communicate effectively is a skill long heralded as key to success in both the personal and professional domain.
Yet for the majority of us it is not a skill which comes naturally – an issue further compounded in recent years as technological developments dramatically altered the way the world communicates.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the workplace where the once regular face-to-face meetings with colleagues are now increasingly replaced with the comparatively impersonal conference call, e-mail and instant messaging. In this environment misunderstandings and misinterpretations can abound as social contact with colleagues is increasingly replaced with digital communication.
So where are we going wrong? And how should we be communicating in the workplace? The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Communication Skill-building Tools attempts to tackle just this by compiling a ‘ready-ade tool kit’ on what constitutes effective office-based communication.
Intended as ‘a collection of working tools’ which trainers and consultants can delve into as and when they see fit, the manual is organised into three sections consisting of presentations, experimental learning activities and surveys.
Offering its readers a representation of the best in discussion of communications teachings from the last 30 years of Pfeiffer annuals, the book aims to help to “build healthier organizations for working people everywhere”, according to editor Jack Gordon.
So does it succeed in this? Certainly, the articles included in its opening section cover a range of topics from communicating change to assertiveness training, and appear to offer readers a valuable crash course in the subject.
Furthermore, in complementing dialogue with the group activity ideas of part two and questionnaires in part three, readers are able to firmly consolidate knowledge acquired from the discussions in part one. For example, lessons taken from presentations such as ‘Using personality typology to build understanding’ and ‘The Johari window: a model for eliciting and giving feedback’ can be reinforced through the self-analysis study, ‘the behaviour description’ in part three and related to third parties through the part two group activity ‘Analysing and increasing open behaviour: the Johari window’.
Yet not all discussion within The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Communication Skill-building Tools is valuable or applicable. In fact, it would seem that amassing three decades of content into one manual has led to the inclusion of some outdated and impractical instruction.
For example, the article entitled ‘E-mail basics: practical tips to improve communication’ would have been a worthy piece when first published in 2002 but six years later it appears out-of-touch and old fashioned.
In fact some of the advice offered is simply not relevant in the present day; advising readers to be tolerant to your teammates’ e-mail mistakes as “some are new to using e-mail correctly” and the assertion that “not everyone has e-mail” is almost certainly erroneous in 2008 when most workplaces have had e-mail systems in place for a number of years.
In addition, the suggestion that companies should regulate the frequency with which employees check e-mail correspondence to twice a day (first thing in the morning and at the end of the day) seems impractical guidance in the modern day work environment where the receipt of hundreds of e-mails a day has become commonplace.
Nonetheless if you can see past some inappropriate contributions it is clear the ideas expressed in The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Communication Skill-building Tools are both informative and accessible.
Readers are not only presented with an opportunity to realise what constitutes successful interaction with co-workers but are also provided with the means to both consolidate lessons learnt and impart their knowledge to co-workers and employees. And in a world where inefficient communication can make the difference between success and failure that is an invaluable opportunity.
Indeed, as Gordon writes: “Communication is the very life’s blood of an organisation, vital at every level. An enterprise full of people who cannot communicate effectively with one another cannot communicate well with its customers.”