The Most Talked About and Least Understood Skill Among Leaders

In planning Thoughtwave for the start of 2020, I decided that a large share of content would focus on communication among leaders and within companies. There were five key reasons why.

  1. Communication is the cornerstone of people’s progression and your company’s success.
  2. Communication is the most talked about and least understood skill among leaders.
  3. A leader that believes they have mastered communication, individually or within their company, is a leader who favors delusion ahead of discipline.
  4. Communication is complex.
  5. Communication is what separates exceptional leaders from those that are average.

Minds Run Wild

Fact is, that conspiracy theories are alive and well and living within your organization.

According to Merriam-Webster, a conspiracy theory is “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”

Our minds love to fill in the blanks. When minds are left to wander, or wonder, they run wild. Here are some examples.

  • Elvis is still alive.
  • Area 51 is researching and experimenting on aliens.
  • The chamber behind Mount Rushmore holds some big secrets.
  • The Bermuda Triangle is one of the two places on Earth at which a magnetic compass points towards true north.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy was the catapult for modern conspiracy-theory. It was an improbable event that Americans desperately wanted explained, no matter how concerning the truth. There are dozens of theories and documentaries explaining JFK’s passing and they’re only advanced by the fact that an absolute truth is still unknown.

Netflix cashed in on the conspiracy theory surrounding the death of Jimmy Hoffa in their recent hit The Irishman. The movie became the biggest theatrical release both in the United States and internationally.

While conspiracy theories may be profitable for moviemakers, they have no place or purpose in your company.

Communication Requires Commitment

Your people are searching for answers. They want to understand what’s happening around them. If you don’t tell them, they’ll make up their own version of the truth.

On the flip side of understanding, it’s important to note that communication doesn’t mean telling everyone everything. Like shoes, a blouse or pants, communication should be sized to the person or group of people receiving the message.

Questions to Consider

Here are two questions to consider when you favor communication ahead of conspiracy.

  1. What generates curiosity?
  • Unknowns
  • Rumors
  • Misstatements
  • Avoidance of questions
  • Generalizations
  • Silence
  1. What minimizes conspiracies?
  • Shared truths
  • Facts

The Discipline of Communication

The truth can be uncomfortable. It does, however, provide the opportunity to state the facts ahead of letting people randomly fill in the blanks.

Conspiracy theories create chaos. Communication creates the interaction between information and people. The relationship between the two allows leaders to minimize conspiracies, maximize truth and accelerate the speed to communication effectiveness within your company.


On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ideal, where would you rate the effectiveness of communication within your department, area or company?

Why did you rate it that way?

What would it take to improve the effectiveness of your communication?

What’s your action plan to make it happen?

Final Thought

If communication is consistently random, what would lead you to believe it’s directed by the discipline of a strategy?

P.S. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Email is Imploding as a Method of Communication

Email is imploding. Why? The breakdown in understanding and valuing communication awareness and effectiveness among people sharing ideas.

You’ve Seen This Happen

Recently, I watched two individuals who were working on the same project, in the same work area, exchange their thoughts and ideas with each other solely via email and text. There was no interpersonal interaction, communication or understanding. They could have easily had a face-to-face/one-to-one collaboration and conversation. They chose instead to exchange and expand complex thoughts around a complex project via an electronic interaction. It’s no wonder that when I sat in on the meeting in which their ideas were challenged directly that their thought process collapsed.

The problem? They had exchanged emails and texts; they hadn’t built the relationship of interaction, understanding and communication.

It’s happening more and more in workplaces and in homes… people have exchanged interpersonal interaction and conversation for soundbites, tidbits and broad interpretation.

Suddenly, the phone seems completely revolutionary and relevant again as a means to have a conversation that allows people to expand their interactions beyond one dimensional.

Get Your Butt Out of Your Chair

If the phone is revolutionary in expanding communication, then getting face-to-face and one-to-one is flat out disruptive and an idea to be maximized.

Here’s a suggestion. The next time you have to communicate with someone who’s in close proximity to you, and you think about sending an email or text, get your butt out of your chair and go talk to them - have a meaningful conversation about the topic.

Need to have a challenging conversation with a customer or client? Pick-up the phone and call them. Does a really challenging situation with a client require real face-to-face awareness and insight? Make the investment… go see them. You may be surprised at what this does to deepen your relationship, define a competitive differentiator and increase your value.

Same Problem Different Technology

In an era in which technology is viewed as contributing to our effectiveness and efficiency, it may be worth a look back to Circa 1990 to recognize that as much as things change, they truly remain the same. Check it out here and you’ll have a better understanding of my perspective and purpose around direct communication and interaction.

Email, just like fax machines, isn’t an effective method of communication when used one-dimensionally or incorrectly. Technology certainly doesn’t offer a method of interpersonal communication.

Let’s not be delusional. I use text, email and other forms of technology daily. I also invest the majority of my day either on the phone with clients or working with them face-to-face. The result?  Greater clarity, less misinterpretation and differentiated understanding. Why? Because direct interaction and communication matter.


Technology has expedited communication, but in so many cases has failed to make it more effective.  Email does not allow someone to convey their thoughts as accurately as they could face-to-face.

Email is imploding. It shouldn’t be your primary source of communication, rather it should be a supplement to your differentiated one-to-one plan and interpersonal strategy.

Earlier this month I discussed casualization of the workplace and lowering your standards simply because it is viewed as acceptable to others. Don’t allow email to become another casualization trap. Stand apart and be the person who excels at interpersonal communication.

Be Authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Why Casual Conversations Create Organizational Chaos

Take Note

The problems and challenges within an organization are directly related to not only a lack of communication, they’re directly related to the casualness of many conversations. As a company grows, these one-off conversations have the potential to create a level of chaos that is both counterproductive and destructive to organizational advancement and effectiveness.

The Cornerstone of Success

Communication is the cornerstone of your company’s evolution and the direct outcome of growth. So, while every communication doesn’t have to be structured, every conversation can’t be casual.

I see it all the time in family business. The business starts as a small enterprise and the entrepreneur becomes comfortable with communicating in a one-to-one manner throughout the entire company. In that stage of a company’s growth, it represents the quickest and most effective path to results. Then the business grows, and grows some more. Then the business achieves exponential growth. The owner eventually finds that what s/he communicates to one individual is passed through the organization, one person to the next, and by the time it reaches its final destination is a much different message than it was originally. “This isn’t the way it used to be,” they can be heard saying in a frustrated tone. The good news is that the company’s success has fueled a requirement for a more enhanced system of communication. The bad news is that many leaders are so slow to recognize this changing dynamic.

“If communication is so important to the success of any enterprise or relationship, why is it that people are so slow to recognize the changes that have to occur to make it more effective?”

“As a company grows exponentially, the process of communication must evolve as well in order to achieve the intended outcomes and desired results.”

“Communication wasn’t intended to be continuously random.”

Absolute Importance

The evolution and effectiveness of communication within a growing enterprise is based on leaders recognizing the absolute importance of advancing the communication cadence, sequencing and systems. So, what does this look like? Depending on the size of the company, you may find some or all of these options applicable:

  1. Engage team-members/employees one-to-one on a regular basis. Use this time to discuss what has gone well and what hasn’t gone well over a period of time and adjust as needed.
  2. Implement daily and weekly connections among departments and teams that are concise and purposeful. Use this time to connect and communicate on all priorities.
  3. Don’t let communication become bureaucratic or unnecessarily complex. In other words, don’t trade common sense for processes and procedures that make no sense in moving communication forward.
  4. Teach people what effective communication looks like and doesn’t look like specifically.
  5. Create a system for how information should flow through your organization so that communication is based on the required connections between people.



Don’t assume that because someone has reached a certain position or level that they’ve mastered effective communication. Entrepreneurs, owners and senior leaders are often the primary source of communication chaos within their company. This is because they think of and reference communication based on what it was in the past rather than what it needs to be now and into the future.

The expression “if we aren’t growing, we’re dying,” can be heard in the hallways of companies around the world. Highly effective leaders within the most effective organizations give another context to this wisdom that goes like this... “If we aren’t communicating, were dying.”

Make no mistake that what you say matters and people listen.

It’s not about eliminating casual conversations. It’s about recognizing that, at some point, they must evolve and can no longer serve as the primary strategy for effective communication within a company. Growth demands that leaders become more purposeful than casual in their communication.

Be Authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Three C's

Cooperation the Mortar that Binds and Builds

The last, yet certainly not the least of the Three C’s is cooperation. Cooperation is a person or group working together to achieve a common goal or benefit. Although it sounds simple enough in theory, the act of cooperating in our day-to-day interactions can be complex and should be carried out in a deliberate and thoughtful way--cooperation is simplex.

Cooperation in its simplex form is the desire to draw the best from each family or staff member, and the capacity to value the skills, talents and abilities they add to the organization. Where collaboration is the building block of a high-performance company culture, cooperation is the mortar that holds the whole thing together. No company becomes successful without frequent, purposeful cooperation between everyone involved in the business.

Not Like the Other

Although cooperation and collaboration are similar, they are not the same. For example, in the game of tug-of-war the team members collaborate—through discussion and skill assessment--to decide on the order of the team lineup. Once an order is determined, the team members line up in order and cooperatively tug on the rope to try to muddy the other side and win the game.

Sharing the Load

Cooperation does not mean being free of disagreement, and it is more than someone just doing what they are told. It means understanding that sometimes we must set aside personal bias and be bigger than the disagreement or opposing view in order to promote the common good.

Cooperation means sharing the load with those around you that have a vested interest in the success of the company. It also means that family members or people within the business are fully contributing their mind share, heart share and hand share.

Mind Share

We must rid our mind of mental baggage and be intellectually prepared to cooperate with others. Resentment is a barrier to cooperation and letting go of the anger and hurt will not only facilitate a cooperative mindset, it will also improve our relationships with others.

Heart Share

We must believe to our core that cooperation is the best option in achieving results through people. We also have to open ourselves to trusting people around us to do the right thing for the company. This may mean setting aside our ego and giving up control in order to allow others to take the lead.

Hand Share

We must commit to take on the heavy lifting, and take the actions that are in the best interest of the organization and mutually benefits others. No job is too menial or insignificant when it contributes to the success of the company.

Don’t be Annoying

As leaders it is critical that we develop an awareness of self in order to bring out the best in those around us. Antagonism, pettiness, and egotistical behavior are barriers to cooperation and exhausting to others. Most people will avoid spending time with people that consistently exhibit these traits. Reflect on whether any of these behaviors are limiting your ability to encourage and produce a cooperative company culture. If they are, then take action to change or minimize the behavior to encourage a high performing culture in your organization.

If you truly want your business to maximize performance, then develop family leaders who understand the value and importance of self-awareness in the form of transparent and authentic communication, collaboration and cooperation.


Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter -  @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.


Three C's

Collaboration, the Building Block of a High Performance Culture

Once you have established a firm foundation of effective communication in your family business you can focus on the second of the Three Cs—Collaboration.

Creating and fostering collaboration in a family organization goes a long way toward minimizing the dysfunction. A truly collaborative company respects our input, values ideas, and appropriately rewards contributions—things we all crave.

Collaboration Is

Collaboration means to work jointly or together. In its simplex form, collaboration is the relationship between multiple ideas that contribute to a better result or outcome for the business. Collaboration is the foundation of a high-performance approach within a family company.

Collaboration Is Not

Collaboration doesn’t mean consensus--general agreement and harmony. In fact, consensus is the antithesis of collaboration because meaningful, productive collaboration requires diversity of opinion and approach. Collaboration is based on working jointly toward common goals while respecting opposing views and engaging in respectful dialogue that values perspectives other than your own.

Capitalize on Diversity

Left to our own approach, the people we choose to collaborate with are people we know well, which can be deadly for developing new ideas. In order to leverage the power of collaboration, we must purposely seek out and welcome the divergent opinion and viewpoint.

Diversity is more than the color of someone’s skin or their ethnic background. Look around and consider the diversity that exists in your own family. Even though you may have been raised with similar values and beliefs, each family member comes with their own behaviors, motivators, experiences, capacities, and competencies. We are all gloriously unique in how we approach life and work!

Collaborative Pitfalls

Collaboration isn’t without its pitfalls. We need to be conscious of the challenges to working in a collaborative family company.

Over Doing It

There’s a reality that must be acknowledged—there can be too much collaboration! Collaboration can quickly become the brakes grinding advancement to a hard stop. When we try to collaborate on everything, we can find ourselves in endless meetings debating ideas rather than finding solutions.

It is important to focus collaborative efforts on projects that need a creative solution, rather than attempt to work on every detail of the day-to-day business. That is not to say that daily tasks won’t benefit from a team approach. Process analysis of small details can result in tremendous efficiency gains, but it’s critical that your collaboration efforts are focused on solving problems and don’t increase dysfunction or create inefficiency.

Disagreement does not Equal Disagreeable

The foundation of collaboration is discord and disagreement, but it is not okay to become disagreeable. When you become irritated or overwhelmed by negative emotion, take a mental step back and assess the situation. Is your irritation the result of something other than the current situation? Are you allowing family bias to influence your attitude?

Collaboration Killers

I am often confused when otherwise bright people place self-interest ahead of a collaborative outcome. Yet many limit collaboration because it requires them to step outside of their bias; set aside their ego, and leave their emotional comfort zone.

Eliminate Silos

Silos are not only collaboration killers, they can kill a company. For example, if a company’s manufacturing department finds a critical flaw in a part and no one tells sales to stop selling that part due to an organizational silo it could destroy the business.

Do Not Kill the Messenger

Trust and transparency are crucial to creating a collaborative organization. Few of us enjoy delivering bad news, and many of us won’t give bad news when we know that there is a “kill the messenger” culture in our company. Punitive behavior when someone brings bad news is the fastest way to destroy a person’s will to offer their opinions and ideas.

Make it About the We

Collaboration is about achieving results as a team. To maintain a collaborative culture we must prevent any one individual or group of collaborators from benefiting so much that others feel their inputs are being exploited.

Build a Culture of Collaboration

Building a culture of collaboration in a family company means taking the time to understand and inspire people. We must demonstrate that collaborators are vital to the organization.

The results of effective communication and a collaborative family company culture are cooperation, which is the topic of our next article.


Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter -  @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Three C's

Communication, the Cornerstone of the Three Cs

In our previous article we discussed the Three Cs of communication, collaboration, and cooperation. We explored how a breakdown in any or all of them can result in dysfunction in the family business—frankly in any business. We also discussed the idea of simplexity—breaking a complex concept or issue into simple, actionable points. Today we’ll delve into what I consider to be the cornerstone of the Three Cs; communication. Without communication, there can be no collaboration or cooperation.

Complicated by Family Dynamics

In a standard business model, bad behavior is quickly addressed through coaching and development. However, in too many closely held businesses the dynamic of “family correctness” disrupts the normal flow of constructive feedback. It creates stress for the family member and those around them when the family member cannot fundamentally do the job. The only correct thing to do is address this with authentic, transparent, and well-defined communication.

Defining Communication

Many times people define communication very simply – one person talking with another. While simple in theory, communication is very complex--communication is simplex. Communication is not just about listening more and talking less. Real communication is driven by a desire for mutually beneficial dialog and respecting and valuing the thoughts, ideas and input other than our own.

Communication in its simplex form means we take the time to understand how someone prefers to communicate; why they prefer to communicate that way, and how their communication style impacts their approach.

Understanding Different Styles

As complex as communication may seem, there are only four communication styles. At Perpetual Development, we use a TTI Success Insights Trimetrix HD AssessmentTM to analyze communication styles among team members for our clients in closely held and family companies.


  • Direct
  • Big Picture
  • Determined

Strengths: People with a Dominance style see the big picture, willingly accept challenges, and exude confidence.
Challenges: This style may be interpreted as domineering, impatient, and blunt.


  • Optimistic
  • Collaborative
  • Persuasive

Strengths: They are outgoing, friendly, optimistic and collaborative.
Challenges: Can be perceived as flighty, shallow, and pushy.


  • Calm
  • Humble
  • Supportive

Strengths: Sincere, patient, and consistent best describes this style.
Challenges: Fears change and needs time to adapt.


  • Cautious
  • Independent
  • Precise

Strengths: High level of accuracy and independence.
Challenges: Gets stuck in the “weeds” and may not relinquish control.

Understanding each communication style will help us become better communicators, because we can adjust our leadership approach and draw the best outcome from our staff. The strongest communicators have honed their powers of observation to the point that they can adapt their communication style to elicit the very best from others.

Styles Differ

Improving communication requires that we recognize and understand that we have different communication styles. Everyone has a dominant communication style; however people are a combination of all four. Each of us has a communication style that is our Achilles heel, or that is more difficult for us to use. Our dominant style often influences how we interact with others and how we are perceived. We also adapt our style when dealing with others.

Not Just One Style

Although we all have one of these four as our dominant communication style; very few of us use only one style all the time. There are times when a Dominance style may use Steadiness traits (calm, supportive) to diffuse a particularly volatile situation. Conversely, a Dominance style of communication may be required in certain circumstances--when we must make a quick decision.

More than Words

Words are only one of the ways in which we express ourselves, and often our behavior belies the words coming out of our mouth. How often has someone said he or she agrees with you while his or her head subconsciously shakes back and forth in the globally accepted motion for “no”? Their words indicate agreement, but their body language is telling you a different story. This is just one instance of how effective communication entails more than just speaking and listening; it requires observation.

Actions Speak Louder

I believe one of the secrets to becoming an exceptional communicator is honing your powers of observation because we often experience communication through the behavior of others rather than their words.

We often use action as a stand-in for direct interaction. When Bob does not receive a promotion, he feels he deserves he may show up late for work or “forget” an important meeting as a way to show his displeasure. Sometimes these behaviors are intentional; other times they may be purely subconscious. Either way, the behavior has a negative impact on the business.

Self-Awareness Plays a Critical Role

It is easier to point out character flaws in others than it is to see them in ourselves. However, the only way to adequately address dysfunction in others is to understand and manage our personal communication strengths and challenges.

Effective communicators have a heightened awareness of who they are and what triggers certain emotions or reactions. For example, Samantha is a self-aware leader that realizes she has a bias to hire and surround herself with people that agree with her. She also knows that diversity in opinion and background are crucial to the success of the business. As a self-aware leader, Samantha takes steps to minimize the impact of her bias by including people with differing values and backgrounds in the interview process.

Do you know your preferred communication style? The first step to being an outstanding communicator is to identify your style.

Practical Application

Real, meaningful communication requires what I like to call Full Mental Engagement  (FME). It takes focus and practice to hone your self-awareness and improve your communication skills.

The next time you are in a dialog use your powers of observation along with your ears to increase your understanding. Consider the following;

  • Do they demonstrate urgency or rapid pace of speaking?
  • Are they verbal and optimistic in their approach?
  • Do they prefer to do many things at once or do they prefer a steady and consistent pace?
  • Do they demonstrate a high degree of detail and follow-through, or were the rules invented for someone else—only followed when there is no other option?

We’ll explore collaboration in its simplex form in our next article.

Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter -  @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Three C's

Why the Three C’s are Critical to a Successful Family Business

I have come to realize that many of the issues I see when I work with family businesses are due to a breakdown in one, or all of what I call the Three Cs--communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Effectively achieving the three Cs is a challenge in the best circumstances, but when you factor in the family dynamic and emotional baggage; it can become almost impossible.

The Complexity of Families

People and families are complex, and they come with their own strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and biases. When families come together to run a business the complexity increases exponentially.  The adage that familiarity breeds contempt is never truer than when you are dealing with dysfunction in the family business! Conflicting personal interests; sibling rivalry; old wounds from family feuds, and perceived favoritism are just a few of the familial issues that can muddy the waters. Unfortunately, the family dysfunction often adversely affects the health of the business. More than one family company has closed its doors due to a lack of communication, collaboration, and cooperation. The good news is that with work, focus, and intent these issues are not insurmountable!

Personalities Abound

Humans are multidimensional, and as such we all deal with the stress of family dysfunction differently. Some of us are pacifiers, trying to keep the peace and maintain the family relationships. Some are bullies that attempt to get their way with badgering and controlling behavior. Some are victims who blame their shortcomings and failures on circumstances beyond their control and never take responsibility for their actions.

Finding Common Ground

Whatever the personality type, we all have the same desire to be respected, valued, and understood. We need to know that someone appreciates us, and can see our point of view because this is how we know we’ve made a connection. Self-awareness and awareness of others is central to finding common ground on which to build or rebuild a relationship. Creating a connection to others is a fundamental building block for trust.


The Simplexity of the Three Cs

Dysfunction is so rampant in some family companies that members have come to accept it as a condition of doing business. As a result, they tolerate bad behavior on the part of others. However, playing family politics or pretending the problem does not exist worsens the issue and doesn’t address the required evolution necessary to minimize the dysfunction. Although we may never eliminate the family dysfunction, it can be addressed through authentic and transparent communication, collaboration and cooperation so that it does not negatively impact the business.

From Complex to Simplex

Simplexity is a phrase I coined to describe the process of breaking an extremely complex concept or issue into simple points. In this case the complex issue of dysfunction in the family business can be boiled down to a collapse in one or all of the Three Cs. Think of the Three Cs as the legs of a three-legged stool--take away one leg and the stool cannot stand on its own. The simplexity of minimizing dysfunction in the family business or organization comes from valuing and balancing the relationship between communication, collaboration and cooperation.


In order for a family company to achieve optimal performance, they must determine which leg(s) of the Three Cs stool are broken and then take action to deal with the situation. For example, a breakdown in communication will adversely impact collaboration and cooperation. When we identify and correct the challenges to effective communication we are shoring up the foundation of the Three Cs stool.

The more awareness, understanding and action created around improving communication, collaboration and cooperation, the greater the capacity of the people to understand how their contribution impacts the organization. Raising awareness is the first step toward maximizing family relationships and addressing family dysfunction.

In our next article, we’ll explore the first C—Communication and offer guidance on how to deal with dysfunctional communication.

Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter -  @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.