Communication: The Key to Success
“The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
I found this quote from George Bernard Shaw to be one of the most poignant I have heard. Looking back on my term as AAPG Executive Director I know how important “communication” is in the building of a great society and the building of AAPG. It fuels the desire and aspiration of the volunteers to continue to volunteer and keeps operations functioning. Over the years, many of the problems presented to the leadership and staff for review had a component of miscommunication or a lack of communication. However, solutions to those problems almost always involved improving communication.
Of course, the AAPG House of Delegates newsletter The Delegates’ Voice is an important method of communication within AAPG, keeping everyone informed on all current issues in the House. Many think of the AAPG House of Delegates as primarily a group that deals only with the AAPG constitution and bylaws, but it is much more than that.
Delegates provide an essential communication service to members of the Regions, Sections and Affiliated Societies. These lines of communication inform, notify and enlighten AAPG professionals and students on many key issues, including membership and services. Of course, communication lines are designed to work both ways. All AAPG members, including the delegates, are encouraged to provide the AAPG leadership with information regarding the wants and needs of the membership. Everyone is also encouraged to submit articles to The Delegates’ Voice to let their voices be heard and communicate their suggestions for improvement and change, whatever they might be, to the attention of everyone.
The methods of communication also have changed significantly over the past 20 years. AAPG used to communicate its activities and services primarily through publications and paper newsletters. Although the Explorer still provides excellent tactile contact with the membership, many now get information through e-mail, the Internet or other social and professional media such as podcasts, Twitter with “tweets”, blogs, MySpace, your space, Facebook and now Tumblr, I guess with “tumbles”.
Now that I am working as a prospect geologist, one of the first things I do each morning is open the AAPG Home Page to see what is going on in the world and in my profession. On my first day at my new job the first program I opened was Datapages to start research on my new area of interest. AAPG Datapages, Search and Discovery and GIS-UDRIL are amazing sources of information and I encourage everyone to utilize these resources.
The one media I will not miss terribly is all those hundreds of e-mails I received each week. I realized my first week at my new job that I had become an e-mail junkie. I would open my e-mail and only get one or two e-mails. I was in withdrawal; I would sit and stare, thinking, “Hit me, I can take it!” as I waited for more e-mails. Solving short-term problems through e-mail communication was like a quick “buzz” and after 12 years I was fully addicted. Although e-mails are a great tool for communication, they can often be a source of miscommunication if they are not written thoughtfully and thoroughly.
One thing I learned while at AAPG on communication is to make sure I understood the situation as completely as possible before responding. It makes a tremendous difference. One personal example is with Zoe, my 11-year old daughter. She and I decided to start exercising more this summer, so we pulled out her Wii-Fit program that we had not used for two years.
As part of the start-up you have to weigh in and let it calculate your BMI—which I think is your body mass index. It shows your avatar (3D full-length caricature) on the screen next to a graph. Zoe’s was a cute, little, slim blonde and mine was a not-so-cute, very large guy. Zoe went first and when it calculated her BMI it went upward off the chart and a sarcastic, soft voice says, “Well, Zoe, I see you have not been exercising lately.” Immediately, her avatar “popped” and turned into a very, very plump little girl!
I started laughing so hard that Zoe screamed at the computer, then me, and ran off disgustedly into the other room. When we both finally gained our composures I brought her back in and showed her that she needed to add her height as it was the same as two years ago. Immediately, Zoe’s avatar became slim again, but a little taller. It was all a matter of good communication. Zoe and I “canned” the Wii Fit game deciding its communication style was just too rude.
Technology is great and will increasingly provide new and powerful methods of communication. However, I hope we can always keep the human side of patience and thoughtfulness in communication.
For now, I am enjoying communicating from the other side (as a volunteer) with a lot less e-mails!