It is worth noting the frequently used noun ‘transform’ or its mutations. That concept’s importance within managerial communication is important for both long-term care leaders and their employees.
Why do we always talk about “transformation?” In a kaleidoscope world that includes long-term care, change is expected. There is a daily call for change in function, in reform, in retention, in amending the usual. In locker rooms or in continuing care retirement community meeting rooms there are symbols covertly calling to do better, to challenge, to teach, to learn. At the heart is a wish to improve.
But we should ask what this comes from. In the ancient world, for example the two Romans Cicero and Quintilian and the Greek Aristotle, moved many of their transformative concepts on the wheels of persuasion. Their writings, often collectively written by their former students, sought change in the courts of law (Forensic) and the halls of government (Deliberative). In later years those rhetorical tools carried over into the world of commerce and the church, especially the latter’s support of its faith in and ultimately its concern for overt compassion of the poor and elderly. All forerunners of today’s attention to healthcare.
Some time ago several of us created a managerial communication-assessment instrument to access either managerial or workers’ message capability in an organization (Competing Values Instruments for Analyzing Written and Spoken Messages. Human Resources Management. 32(1).121-142.]) Significantly we placed Transformation in the prime upper right quadrant. While we titled our managerial platform “Managerial Competing Values,” the term “relational” is also a valid identifier along with “competing.” Here is a summary of the four quadrants.
Transformational. Often managerial decisions are top-down. While that process has its place, an evaluative instrument using specific assessment criteria of an individual, manager or employee, will help pinpoint a communication strength or weakness in an individual. Extensive testing with many scholarly colleagues sought benchmarks in answer to the question, “Which criteria-terms relate to bringing change in an organization via oral or written communication?”
Let’s look at Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, accepted as one of the world’s emphatic calls to action. Thought delivery, substance and choice of words he transformed ideas into an innovative, creative and original statement.
That mega assessment is in symmetry with the six group-selected semantic evaluators within the concept of Transformational: (Emphatic, Forceful, and Powerful), (Insightful, Mind-stretching and Visionary). Try rating your communication messages in each of the two groups—including the pole criteria (Aware, Discerning, Perceptive)–on a scale of one (1) low to seven (7) high.
We use the identical approach for the other three quadrant cells, each with different evaluative terms. We thus will have a value for the terms. Above we suggested one may self-evaluate. That review, using the same instrument can be used by a superior, subordinate or other. Omitted from the graph below is a check mark indicating the position of the value along the four radii.
Promotional. As we move to the cell beneath Transformation lies the area assessing the communicator’s ability to persuade. That is, can the speaker/writer manager get support for their proposition?
Supports include evidence as statistics, examples, analogies, expert opinions and personal illustrations. Promotional topics vary: “There is need for an in-house medical clinic,” “We need more training for the wait staff,” “Let’s hire an outside consultant to assess whether to remodel our independent living unit or eliminate it and build a new facility.”
While the proposal is important, it is the logical (Logus) content that is core to supporting the principal.
Of course teachers of persuasion would add two other tenets from ancient rhetoricians: Ethos (the character or good will of the persuader) and occasionally Pathos (use of emotion in examples, stories or incidents) to engage the listener or reader. Not to be neglected is the oral delivery of the persuasive, argument-centered wish in supporting the idea. If the message is written, here is an opportunity for action words, specifically verbs that give a semantic push.
Furthermore, statistical agreement was reached for arriving at terms connecting with selling an idea, supporting a service or other promotions. Under the macro rubric of Dynamic Content (Innovative, Creative, Original) are two more evaluative clusters: (Interesting, Stimulating, Engaging) and (Conclusive, Decisive, Action Oriented) ending with the macro (Practical, Realistic, Informative). Those terms would also be rated on a scale of one (1) low to seven (7) high, in turn that value added to each radius.
Informational. The term itself defines the third cell of the quadrant: selected facts and opinions that inform the listener or reader. Verifiable data today overwhelms us. Our on-line sources of information as Google and other investigatory companies are prolific.
Thus organization of material demands selecting evidential material in a cogent, unbiased and neutral manner. “Let the facts stand alone” is a familiar mantra, they on their own adding clarity and credibility to any document or presentation. Numerous methods for organizing ideas are included in books on composition, the communicator determining for example whether to use chronological or topical; cause to effect; strong points first or last? Foremost, however, is a core purpose: be clear, precise, accurate. Obvious examples is taking a tour with a potential resident interested in Independent Living or an introductory lecture to a new board member or employee.
Evaluative terms measuring whether information, written or oral, has been precisely and correctly transmitted are within these two groups: (Focused, Logical Organized) and (Rigorous, Precise, Controlled). The following figure represents the third cell of the quadrant along with a macro structural definition of the message being (Technically Correct, Accurate).
Relational. While the preceding three value groups can be used to assess long-term care leaders or employees of health-care facilities, this last fourth value is preeminent. No matter how controlled is understanding the variables involved in change, using in a creative manner facts to bring about action or accepting the rigors required for achieving clarity through logical use of facts. Relational revelations in a healthcare environment through trust is a mandatory value.
Ethos, establishing credibility and trust in an individual —I maintain this is a major criterion mandatory in a healthcare environment — demands linking the sender’s purpose with the receiver’s concerns. Even selecting more casual tones as including pronouns as ‘us, we, our’, and omitting a high oratorical tone in place of conversations is needed. Writing too would be more casual, perhaps not as casual as messages sent via I-phones.
AI at the moment is debatable in achieving better long-term care. Whether an inanimate instrument can approach the warmth of a human is to be determined. Thus six evaluative terms, under the macro (Aware, Discerning, Perceptive) are deductions core to assessing one’s Relational trust: (Open, Candid, Honest), (Credible, Believable, Plausible).
Combining the quadrants and assigning a value to each radius—our example aareaverages of hundreds of manager evaluations of self—are two lines: (1) the inner line where he or she feels where they are currently and (2) the outer line where the individual would like to be.
The above is simply a tool, an additional way for long-term care managers to assess employees or conversely employees assessing their manager(s).
While we focused on long-term care facilities, it has been used extensively in executive management seminars, using criteria as above to suggest individual improvements in four managerial communication areas.
Herb Hildebrandt, Ph.D., Hl.D, is Professor Emeritus at the Ross School of Business and Professor Emeritus Communication (International) Studies at the University of Michigan. He lives at Glacier Hills senior living facility in Ann Arbor, MI.