ACEVO Guest Blog: Overcome Communication Confusion & Influence with Integrity


Kevin Downsworth Profile
Kevin Downsworth, Director at First Position Performance

What’s the problem around here?

Time to stop and ponder for a moment . . . if you were asked: “What’s the number one problem in your organisation?” what would be your reply?

Given the state of the nation in the last few years it could well be a lack of something. Most probably sufficient funds to fulfill your purpose and make a greater difference. What would others in your organisation answer?

My guess would be that we would hear a resounding, one word answer: communication! That’s probably no surprise to you as it’s certainly the answer that we hear the most from people across a diverse range of sectors.

 The label of “communication” is too nominalised

The problem with this observation is that, ironically, no one really understands what it means and everyone has their own interpretation.

The label of “communication” is too nominalised. For example, the absence of the specific detail of “what is/what is not being communicated”, “who is not communicating” and “who is not being communicated to” renders the statement at best vague, at worst useless.

If we were to take the time to delve into the detail, I believe we would find fundamental gaps

The problem is compounded as people mostly generally nod along in agreement with the statement in the mistaken belief that “we all understand”, thereby rendering the need for closer examination irrelevant.

If we were to take the time to delve into the detail, I believe we would find fundamental gaps in two areas, a lack understanding of others and little appreciation of how people think so differently to ourselves.

Forgetting diversity

In acknowledging the diverse makeup of our teams we may overlook something even more important to our results and success, the uniqueness of each individual.

For just as “communication” is a nominalisation, so are “organisation”, “board”, “funders”, “bid evaluators”, “volunteers” and “team”.

We recognise the importance of motivating, influencing and inspiring but often attempt to do so without any real understanding of the individual on the receiving end.

Take a moment to think of someone who is important to your organisation and its purpose. How much do you know about the following?

  • How do they make decisions?
  • What’s really important to them? What thoughts keep them awake at night and what feelings enable them to sleep soundly?
  • What is their process for knowing whether or not they are doing a good job and how does this impact on their perception of whether you are doing a good job?
  • How do they become convinced of something?
  • What’s the one thing that really motivates them and fires them into action?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions you are running the risk of getting the results you desire more by good luck than considered, precise action.

“You cannot not communicate” can you?

As our every word and action communicates something, our potential to influence others (and ourselves) is massive.

We have at our disposal a remarkable set of tools which, when used well can be extremely effective.

The problem is that what should be the delicate chisel in the smooth hands of the artisan is often the blunt axe in the rough grasp of the well-meaning woodsman.  If we recognise the importance of our ability to propose, persuade, find common ground and inspire others behind our vision perhaps it would be worth spending a little time to at least sharpen our axe before we learn to master the use of the chisel   If we are serious about achieving our outcomes it is worth remembering that there is a skill and craft involved in ensuring your message gets across to people. After all, “The meaning of the Communication is the response it gets”.


Kevin Downsworth, Director at First Position Performance, will be delivering the first ACEVO Masterclass,  “Influencing with Integrity” on Thursday 29 May

To book your place please click here, alternatively you can view the full series here.

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