Don't talk through the mouth of someone else

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One thing I've learned the hard way is that it's very difficult to communicate to one person through another. This should be obvious right? We all played the telephone game when we were kids.

In a lot of businesses though, even when there are "open door policies", there's still sort of an unspoken (or spoken) chain of command. The problem this causes is that the message you want to deliver simply cannot be sent by someone else in the same way that you would deliver it. Tone will be different. Body language will be different. A sense of empathy or compassion may be absent. The list goes on and on.

This is why when an idea spreads through the internet it's so effective. Obviously, there's the critical piece about information traveling quickly. Just as important though is that people are brought directly to the source. If someone likes a blog post of mine, they may add a quick comment and then link to it. The new reader is hearing directly from me without a filter - which is exactly what I want.

Can you imagine what would happen if every time someone liked something on the internet they first interpreted it, then re-wrote it, and then passed it along. That would obviously be ridiculous.

Yet this is exactly what's going on in a typical organization every day.

The CEO's get their information from the VP's, who get their information from a Director, who in turn gets information from a manager. The employee who has a great idea but decides to follow the chain of command is going to have their message altered significantly.

If there's a message you want to get to someone, you need to understand that you are disrespecting that message if you put the delivery of it entirely into the hands of another person. If you need to respect your organization and it's culture that's fine, but you need to find a way for people to hear the message directly from you.

Likewise, if you're running an organization, ask yourself whether you're hearing directly from most of your people or whether most of it's being filtered. If it's the latter, are you sure the right things are being filtered out? Is there a lot of good stuff being thrown out with the bad?

Whether you're the sender or receiver, just remember that it's very difficult to talk through the mouth of another. And when it happens, the message gets altered.