Nick's Notes

The Rest is Silence

I have been doing a lot of client facing work recently. At first glance there is not much commonality between the specific questions I have been asked to advise on. The CIOs I’m working with are intelligent, articulate and successful, so these questions are not trivial concerns. But at their heart there is a point where my differing pieces of work come together, and that is in the area of communication.

Silence is not golden. Silence leaves gaps in the thought processes for other people to fill in. When they fill in those blanks the result is almost always different from what the originator intended. In fiction, rarely in the real world, people are said to be able to complete each other’s sentences. It is a nice literary device to indicate a close working, and sometimes personal, relationship. But in the real world, close business relationships are created through explicit communication – finishing off your own sentences and listening to theirs.

We all see around us that the physical world decays over time. Buildings crumble without maintenance; potholes develop in the road surface; gardens become overgrown. Recently, this concept has been extended to software, an idea I still find intriguing. (It’s because the hardware, operating system and other software interfaces change so that even untouched code becomes less efficient over time until it stops working.) I think it important to extend that expectation of decay to relationships, and then it becomes an explicit action for you to maintain important relationships, personal and business.

Working and personal relationships need injections of energy to be maintained. The default is a gradual gentle decline. Much of the required energy for maintenance will come from shared interests, usually company performance or shared projects. But having a shared goal is not entirely sufficient to maintain a relationship over the long term. Communication is vital, especially when it appears there is nothing to say.

One FTSE 100 CFO who I know well told me that she was concerned that CIOs she’s worked with seemed to assume that because they had talked with her about something it remained fixed and true for ever. The reality at her level was the complete opposite, and the CIO needed to be part of the developing conversation. This is a great example of how a relationship could decay through misunderstanding or miscommunication.

Why did I use a quote from Hamlet – actually the final words of the play – for my title? Some academics believe that Hamlet is one of the most complex of all English language plays with a story capable of “seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others.” Spot on.

So why are you sitting in your office reading this? Go to talk with someone…

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