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May 7, 2013

Talk to Each Other

Pattee Brown

The breakdown of communication is culpable for practically every failed relationship. Relationships of the personal nature as well as of the business nature are typically torn asunder due to communication failing and those involved being unable to bridge that gap that just keeps growing as time passes.


This is especially true in the realms of business or government where there is a board or commission that is assigned to oversee an activity or business practice. The breakdown of communication leaves in its wake at the very least, lost participants due to frustration or hurt feelings, and at its worst, total annihilation of what might otherwise have been a very successful opportunity.


Often it’s something in-between that takes place. Lost opportunities, money left on the table, potential projects never seeing the light of day, etc. The idea that the simple act of communication can and is the culprit of so many broken businesses and lost dreams is simply mind blowing.


Take into consideration the situation currently involving the Montevue/Citizens Nursing Home. The board of trustees, which was appointed by the county commissioners, feels its advice and its expertise is being dismissed by the board that appointed it. The members feel the management company hired by the commissioners, but expected to answer to the board of trustees, completely ignores their requests and instead only answers the commissioners. The commissioners feel the trustees are not taking responsibility for the debt this establishment faces and feels their request for answers and solutions falls on deaf ears. And the list goes on…


But what if the players involved are simply not adept at communication when dealing with people with whom they are not familiar. In other words, it’s easy for any of these players to say they are great communicators… just ask any of their friends or co-workers and they will have a host of people who will vouch for their communication skills. When Commissioners’ President Blaine Young was asked if he felt he was difficult to talk to, he was emphatic that people just didn’t like him because he tells people the truth even if they don’t want to hear the truth. There is no doubt that all the parties involved think they are not the problem, and that the other parties are impossible to talk to. Once again, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.


It’s easy enough to communicate with a person from France if you speak French; but if you don’t speak their language, the conversation just got much more difficult. As with so many companies, non-profits and governing committees, etc., the problem with the Citizens/Montevue situation begins with a profound inability to communicate with each other.


Yes, there are many financial worries that need to be addressed and a big picture future plan needs to be addressed. But fundamentally, the only thing that is going to heal the wounds in this community regarding the ultimate decision that is made is that communication between all the players becomes much more fluid, and regardless of the outcome, all parties are considered, heard and given a chance to offer a best possible solution.


Yes, the county commissioners will make the final decision. Their hierarchy chart shows them at the top of the pyramid making the financial failure of this program ultimately their responsibly and the solution to the problem finally their responsibly.


The need to communicate well with the board of trustees they appointed, and the management company they hired, is critical in helping them make the best decision possible. The trustees must be able to present relevant information in a succinct manner and they must be able to communicate with the management group hired to run the facilities. The commissioners must help facilitate the relationship between the management company and the trustees by making clear who the management company must answer to and what the trustees need to do to best present relevant information.


Ultimately the solution to this problem will be determined by the commissioners. But, without healthy and effective communication between all the players, there is no way the best solution will be determined.


Collaborative communication will lead to the best possible solution for all of us.


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