Communication: Influence Through Proficiency

Getting the message to your team members may not require as much athletic ability as it was for the native peoples in the frozen north, but your intended purpose needs just as much proficiency and dedication.

Every spring, Alaska hosts the Arctic Winter Games. Similar to the Olympics, thousands of athletes participate. However, these athletes are the native peoples from the frozen north, the Yukon, Canada, the Russian province of Yamal, Greenland, and the Sami people of Norway and Finland. The skills of these athletes are quite different from the skills of the modern Olympian as the Arctic Winter Games grew out of native survival skills.

Communication and HuntingOne event, the High Kick completion, began as a communication technique for a hunting party to send a message his village. When the messenger was within visual distance, he would kick one foot high into the air thereby giving a message that a whale has been shot, or that caribou are running near. A two foot kick meant a whale was caught and the people would immediately prepare themselves for beaching. This style of communication was simple, precise, and completely understood by anyone in the village.

21st Century Communication
Today, we give succinct information to our team mates thought instant methods such as emails, text messaging, and phone messages. It’s easy because it doesn’t require much physical, such as the high kick, effort or thought to type and send a message. You don’t have to travel or struggle handwriting memos, you don’t have to hear your message aloud or have a third party offer suggestions to your ideas. Just jot down a few quick words and push a button.

However, team members perform better if they are knowledgeable about the team’s priorities, goals, and progress. Dr. Steven J. Stowell and Ms. Stephanie S. Mead state in their book, The Team Approach; With Teamwork Anything is Possible, “Good leaders know the power of words; skillful communication helps team members see a leader as a positive force for improving the team.”

As a leader, your messages must be clear and complete; your reader needs to understand your true meaning. Fellow team mates need to be able to translate your words, into directions, ideas, or suggestions and then into practical application. Queen Elizabeth I was a leader who became admired by millions. Dr. Stowell and Ms. Mead explain, “She was explicitly clear about the reasoning behind her decisions and actions, so understanding and commitment to her leadership was enhanced.”

Tips to Remember
To communicate more effectively always take time to think about what it is you want to say then edit anything you write before sending it out to others. Always use good grammar and complete sentences. Remember, to use periods, commas, and semicolons and that a paragraph develops an idea not three.

Emails and text messages can often be cold, unfeeling, and misunderstood. Face to face discussions with team members can often get your message across more effectively. Body language, eye contact, unspoken emotions or passion can increase the importance of a project; make a larger impact on the receiver. Similarly, a smile or a pat on the back with a verbal, “job well done” can do a great deal to increase commitment.

In the north, the High Kick brought people together; staccato electronic messages can keep people at a distance even though their offices are across the hall. Perhaps, we should be just a bit more athletic in communicating with others by taking time to think about what we want to say or by walking down the hall to talk with our team mates in person.

A Side Note
The rules of the Arctic Winter Games state that a participant must begin the two-foot event standing with both feet on the floor, jump vertically, and kick a ball suspended three feet or more over the participant’s head. They kick the ball with one foot and then land on the same foot, demonstrating balance to the officials. The ball is the size of a small tangerine. The record for this Arctic two-foot high kick is 8’8″. In another event the Arctic one-foot high kick, the sequence is done beginning and ending with the participant standing on one foot. Every movement in the event is done with the same foot. The record for this event is 8’10”.

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About the Author

Martha Rice