Communication In Higher Education

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About Dean Martin, Ph.D.

chris_martinDr. Christopher Martin, Dean of the College of Business at Louisiana Tech University, is a CapitalOne Professor of Business. Dean Martin earned his Doctorate of Philosophy in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Martin has been published in the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal, among other major publications. Dr. Martin’s background in psychology and organizational behavior has shaped many of his beliefs on communication and prepared him for many of his leadership roles.

Communicative Relationships

Communication is more than just speaking, listening, and gesturing. Communication is one of the most powerful tools know to man. It is the responsibility of an organization’s leadership to set the standard for communication. Dr. Martin said, “I have an open door policy, and I try to encourage an open dialogue with everyone who works alongside me. I want our faculty, staff, and students to know that while we are an organized, professional institution, we are also a family.” Relationships are the foundation for effective and efficient communication.

Effective, Efficient Communication

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 7.13.36 PMThe time that Dean Martin has spent in classrooms and around conference tables with university presidents, board members, donors, and students has taught him how to adapt his communication style to an ever changing audience. He believes that communication has many key components, but he highlighted the two he believes to be most important – preparedness and listening. When Dr. Martin was a classroom instructor he expected his students to prepare for his lectures prior to class. “I always provided examples of situations, cases, and issues I was going to address, and I encouraged my students to think about those cases in the context of their own lives. I was not only an instructor, but I was a mentor, and an advisor. I took every opportunity I could to affect change in both the hearts and the minds of my students. It took time, but I learned how to communicate with my students in a personally professional way.” Dean Martin believes that one should always prepare his/her goal, determine his/her steps to convey the information, and then go after the outcome he/she desires. Your target can be either persuasive or informative, but the tactic is always the same: be prepared to listen to those who the decision affects, be prepared to make decisions, and be prepared to communicate the path that led to your decisions.

Though much of Martin’s communication now takes place through email correspondence, he still prefers oral communication. Dean Martin believes that there is less room for misconceptions when communicating orally. He loves to roam the halls of the College of Business so that he may communicate face-to-face.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 7.13.52 PM“Everyone at this institution is pushed for time, so it is my job to give them key pieces of information as efficiently as possible. It is my duty to anticipate the needs of our faculty, staff, and students. I want to help in every way that I can so it is important that my information is clear and concise. If I am disseminating information that is difficult to understand, I take time to personally explain the information and often times I attach a memo to clarify what was difficult to say in the formal document.”

Communication through Experience

When asked what he believes is the most important form of communication Dean Martin answered, “Listening.” “I try not to have an answer before a question is ever asked, but I always want to be as prepared with as much information as I can possibly have. My job is help guide our team to a solution and to be prepared to make a decision at the necessary moment.”

Brett Hooks, Guest Blogger

 

Communication in the Poultry Industry

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John Holloway: Complex Manager

John Holloway is the current Complex Manager at a Tyson complex located in Carthage, TX. He was raised on a broiler/breeder operation. This, along with years of participating in 4H, led him to Texas A&M University where he majored in Poultry Science. John was immediately drawn to the major because of his background, and soon realized the various opportunities the field had to offer. In May of 1997, he took his first job in the poultry industry managing a pullet vaccination crew. For the next two decades, John worked all over the industry as he moved up.

How well does college prepare new employees?

John says, “I had a strong technical knowledge entering the industry, but I had to learn to deal and communicate with people as well as learning specifics of the company’s human resources”.  Since being in the industry, he has noticed that some newly hired employees struggle do to the fact that they do not listen. New hires often feel like they don’t have to work as hard after graduating. There is a certain amount of entitlement that comes with a degree; because of this employees do not build working relationships.

What skills do you believe are most important in this industry?

John placed an emphasis on the ability to work with people and work in teams. In an industry where time is money, not being able to communicate effectively can literally be costly. There is no room for confusion when dealing with a high volume processing plant. Anytime you are working with a supply chain, communication is crucial. Each segment of the complex is a critical piece in a greater puzzle. John says that one way each department is held accountable for its communication is by the utilization of SAP. SAP is an enterprise resource planning software that allows instantaneous commutation from any department within an industry. Employees are provided with on the job training, as well as side courses to further develop employees.

What role does oral and written communication play in your position?

Oral communication is key in John’s position, and he feels that it is his strong suit. As a complex manager, you have to communicate with various aspects of the workforce. This involves everything from working sales orders to communicating with hourly employees about job function. As a previous Tyson employee, I can attest to seeing management walking through locker rooms speaking with employees. This helps understand the daily obstacles presented on the job, as well as lifting morale. Written communication is also important, but is used less often. John stated the written is primarily only used in email, and when USDA formal letters are written.

Is cross culture communication ever an issue?

Cross culture communication can be very difficult. Tyson presents a very diverse workforce. John says that he has worked in locations where there are up to twenty different languages in use. This is a huge obstacle for a company to overcome, but it can be done with effective translating as well as hands on teaching and demonstrations. He also spoke about the slang used in the industry. This can often result in confusion because slang differs within the company, but also from location to location. In order to avoid confusion, an employee needs to have a complete understanding of what is expected, and what is going on.

 

Lane Pearce, Guest Blogger

Food Service Communication

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Communication plays a major role in the evolving food service industry. Dealing with a diverse workforce and customer base, communication is imperative to ensure days run smoothly. Those responsible are the managers, and the manager I picked to interview is Leathia Rufus. Ms. Rufus graduated with her Bachelors in Human Resources Management and is currently pursuing her Masters. She has been with Pizza Hut for several years, and her current job title is manager. Her daily job duties as a manager consist of: team, money, and product management, securing a safe environment, revenue checklists, and food safety.

Why Individuals Enter Leadership?

Individuals enter leadership roles for various reasons, but leadership is “powerful to the degree, that is empowers others,” stated by Ms. Rufus. One of those reasons Ms. Rufus stated, “is to improve the team and the business, from a view not available to them before as mere employees.” The reason for movement up the employment chain, is that these workers can do the work with ease, and these workers want more responsibility beyond their current title. Leadership consists of more than just managing, but communication as well, and its successfulness is measured on its managers and employees.

Why is Communication Important?

With most food service chains, impressions are imperative, because customers judge the business from the employees, the physical interaction and the appearance of the store, from the moment they enter. First impressions are hard to change, therefore greeting them with smiles and cheerful voices, are key to establishing a good rapport. Ms. Rufus said, “listening, understanding and persuading” are important parts of communication in the industry to establish a good impression. The two effective ways to establish this good impression is oral and written communication.

Why is Oral Communication Important?

Oral communication is an important aspect at Pizza Hut, and through oral communication Ms. Rufus said, “provides a form of engagement for a team to reach its destination constantly.” From communicating with fellow employees and customers, oral communication provides a means of reaching individuals. By communicating to fellow customers, the employee asks what the customer needs, and therefore provides those needs. Additionally, oral communication enforces written procedures or visual specifications for different processes such as making the pizza, prepping the dough, or designing the order to the customer’s specifications. Without oral communication, the store would not effectively run.

What is Written Communication?

In food service, written communication consists of food safety checklists, tracking inventory and weekly schedules. Written communication provides management the opportunity to keep the store as safe as possible. Additionally, Ms. Rufus stated, as technology has evolved, “quicker transactions, smoother billing services and inventory processing,” has resulted in less paperwork.

What are the Challenges of Communication?

Working in a food service chain in an evolving global environment offers distinct opportunities to connect with individuals.  Individuals come from different languages and culture, therefore employees must be sensitive, where an employee must “clarify a task or product to ensure safety or to build a rapport” with a “fellow customer” to build that impression Ms. Rufus states.  Sometimes this communication is not communicated effectively through employees, so Ms. Rufus must problem solve, which requires an “on-the-spot-type” response to solve these problems.

How Is Communication Measured?

Successful communication is key to retaining happy customers. Therefore, Ms. Rufus states that through “customer service scores, performance appraisals, and safety checks,” the store can become more responsive and proactive to become a better communicated store. Surveys and safety checks provide opportunities to externally judge Pizza Hut, and the means to improve on discrepancies.

What is the Impact of Communication?

Communication is not just important in the workforce, but it has positive contributions on our every-day lives. When asked how can we improve while we are still in college, Ms. Rufus stated “everybody has room for improvement when it comes to communication. A world without effective communication falls into disarray.”

Joshua Schexnayder, Guest Blogger

 

From Memo to Email: A CEO’s Experience with Technical Writing

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Marla Herndon-DeLatte is the founder and CEO of MedSouth Record Management, LLC. I started working at MedSouth about 5 years ago.  I have always admired Marla’s leadership and skill for composing written communication. Her professional communication skills developed from years of hard work and dedication. She credits much of what she learned from her background in sales, marketing, and client relations. She shared some thoughts on professional communication and offered great advise for young professionals like myself.

 

Choosing a method of communication:

Marla estimates that 80% of her day involved some form of communications. This may be a phone call, text message, fax, email, in office intercom, professional social media, or a face-to-face meeting. For Marla, choosing a method of communication a crucial step to ensure proper delivery.

She considers many factors when selecting a method of communication. Is the recipient a client, customer, or employee? What level of personal interaction is required? How many people do I need to receive this message? Is the subject of discussion private or public? Will the message benefit from a visual demonstration? She offers some specific advise on tailoring your communication style to suit each individual.

Communicating with Customers / Clients:

  • Always consider the client’s or customer’s expressed and unexpressed preferences.
  • A very social client may benefit from a face-to-face meeting or phone call.
  • A very busy client may prefer a quick and direct email.
  • A customer with limited technological skill may response best to correspondence sent by mail.

Communicating with Employees:

  • Policies and procedures should be communicated via email.
  • Counselling or reprimanding should be communicated face-to-face is a private location.
  • Team meetings are great for obtaining group consensus, gathering opinions, and communicating concepts such as the company’s mission statement.

Internal Communication: Policies and Procedures

Running a business involves decision making, policy creation, and procedure development. Recording  volumes of procedures would be pointless if the message never reached the employees. Marla reminisced on the old school  “memo” method of sending out inter-office communication. A hard copy memo was hand delivered to all employees. A decade ago, “Didn’t you get the memo?” was an earnest and legitimate question, not just a sarcastic way of poking fun of someone not “in-the-know”.  Now, all MedSouth employees have an email address though outlook exchange. Marla always delivers policy and procedure updates via email. She gave several valid reasons for this decision. Composing a written update allows for clear, definitive expression. It also creates a “paper trail”, so employees have no excuse for not complying with the contents of the message.

The Art of Presenting an Argument:

As the CEO, Marla is responsible for responding to customer disputes and dissatisfied clients. I have learned a lot simply by reading email correspondence Marla has send to customers and clients. I am impressed by her eloquent responses to customer disputes, which typically involve irate attorneys.

For Marla, a response shouldn’t never feel like an attack or comeback.  She is able to compose a response that is professional, clear, and definitive. Marla will reference specific federal and state statutes to support her argument. She expresses her opinion without a hint of condescension. The message usually concludes by welcoming additional feedback or response from the recipient.

Such an impressive response doesn’t always come out perfect on the first attempt. Marla usually consults her vice president and husband, Danny, for a second opinion. He has a talent for accessing the overall tone and offers suggestions. There are times when she may type a response in the heat of the moment, but she always chooses to “sleep on it” before sending. A fresh perspective allows her to send her response with confidence.

I realize much of Marla’s communication skills were developed through mindful practice and experience. I will take her advise with me as I continue to grow as a professional.

Leighann DeLatte, guest blogger

Technical Communication In Management

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Ruston Glass and Mirror Co.

 

Joey Gulledge is the Vice President of Ruston Glass and Mirror Co., Inc. His career began when he graduated from Louisiana Tech University and he has since developed into a strong communicator.  Of his twenty years of communication experience in the field of management, fifteen have been spent at Ruston Glass.  Because he must communicate much of the daily issues of the company, he labels himself the Administrative Manager.

Technical Communication

Mr. Gulledge defines technical communication as “the communication within a business that helps the business flow, whether it be verbal or non-verbal”.  Over the last decade, he has been looking for ways to remodel the system so that communication problems will not arise.  The ultimate goal of the management team is to be able to communicate without physically speaking to one another.  He desires a system in which he only communicates verbally when major problems arise.  As with any business, however, there will be differences in communication methods and modes.  He believes that this problem can be avoided as long as the system is uniform and everyone is on the same page.

Modes of Communication

According to Mr. Gulledge, there are two different classes of employees: those in the office and those in the back.  The employees in the back would include the glaziers, auto-glass installers, and warehouse workers.  For these employees, Mr. Gulledge and other managers have decided to take a verbal approach to communicating with them.  On the other hand, what he calls “intra-office communication” requires a much more non-verbal approach.  The administrative team at Ruston Glass has developed a system where their jobs can be done in an orderly manner by inputting work orders and schedules into computer software.  This is a software that everyone can see and update so that confusion is limited.  It also gives every office worker the ability to know exactly what is expected of them and their coworkers.

Regarding communication to people other than employees, Mr. Gulledge primarily uses e-mail.  He claims that this is an effective tool for getting his point across because he has the ability to look at past conversations and analyze them properly.  He is also able to structure his message as he desires rather than having to improvise while speaking to someone.  He mentioned that if a customer calls him on the phone, he will almost always redirect the customer to e-mail because of the efficiency.  The same is true for glass distributors and vendors.  His primary source of information and communication is through technology.

Problems in Communication

When there is an issue with the way that an idea is being communicated, Mr. Gulledge first takes a look at the source of the problem.  Was there a procedural issue or was it strictly a misinterpretation?  If the former arises, it is his job to correct it.  If the system is not working as it should be, he will go straight to the source and rework it until he is sure that the problem will not arise again.  If, however, an employee misinterprets something that Mr. Gulledge or another manager says, he will have to determine whether he or the manager miscommunicated an idea.  If so, he will have to take corrective action so that it does not happen again.

Adapting to Technology

As with any business, people must learn how to adapt to their surroundings.  In the past decade, America has experienced a tremendous growth in technology.  With this new technology, we are able to see real-time data and communicate with each other very effectively.  However, if a company fails to evolve alongside the technology, they will have problems with communication.  For example, Mr. Gulledge says that the work orders used by the management team at Ruston Glass were written on paper and handed to glass crews ten years ago.  Once it was out of the office, it was untraceable.  Now, he says, they can input a work order into their system and track it all the way to the filing process.  Also, the daily schedule for workers was once written on a notepad and handed to individual workers.  The schedule that they use today is on an excel file that everyone can see so that other managers can know where workers are supposed to be and when.

Final Words

When asked if he feels like an effective communicator, Mr. Gulledge stated that his message will not always get across exactly the way he wants it to.  However, he does understand that he does a good job of reading and learning about people.  He says that there is a big difference in talking to an eighteen year-old and to a sixty year-old.  He almost tries to be a different person to everyone he talks to.  One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to think that everyone is his circle communicates or interprets in the same way.

“There is no manual for how you should communicate.  You learn as you experience.” – Joey Gulledge

James Hardy, Guest Blogger