Communication Lessons from Japan

Like you, I have watched the horror unfolding in Japan.

Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear emergency – all in one week – that’s a tough hand. The suffering and uncertainty of such a stoic people is hard to think about – let alone endure.

Last night I saw graphical images of the radiation plume and how the wind was pushing it this way and that and I was reminded of the Iceland Volcano exactly one year ago. Clearly the danger in that ash cloud was nothing like the danger from a radiation cloud but one thing is eerily consistent with that event.

Information from authorities. Back then it was inconsistent, unclear and often skewed.

Now, the Japanese Government present a similar stream of communication. Denying the extremes of danger one day, upgrading it the very next.

It’s the uncertainty – the ‘not-knowing’ that fills people with most fear. How can you plan, assess, decide if the facts you have are fluid or if the information you receive is woefully inconsistent?

Even though it seem inconsequential in these worrying times, business and team leaders need to see this as a valuable lesson.

Your people work so much better with clarity and honesty. Even if the facts on the ground are difficult and tricky, the more open you can be, the more consistent and trustworthy your message, the better the result.

Clarity and honesty form two parts of my new TORCH of leadership. (Of which there will be more soon).

Having been to Japan many times, I know that they will recover and recover quickly. They are a strong and honorable people and this huge blow will bring them together in the common goal to “rebuild from scratch.”

I wish them happier times and soon.