Communicate, Navigate, Execute

I was working on my old motorcycle in garage this winter with a friend who spent some time in the Canadian navy. He reminded me of the old military phrase “Communicate, navigate, and fight.”

A ship, a plane, a soldier all have to be in the right place (navigate), do their job (fight), and tell their superiors what they’ve done (communicate).

I sometimes have interesting conversations in the strangest places.

What It Means In Business

In business, communication is communication. Getting the right information to the right person at the right time so that they can execute their tasks and responsibilities as effectively and efficiently as possible. Which is why the leader(s) of an organization need to have a clear vision of where they’re going (navigate) from the leader of the organization, and be willing to not tolerate lack of performance either in themselves or the organization (execute).

What’s More Important?

Which one of these three  is the most important? No matter what level you are in an organization, if other people report to you my answer would be communicate.

Communicating the vision (navigate), communicating the plan (execute), communicating the results (accountability) are a big part of the job. Yes, you have the do your job, but most of what any manager or leader does has to be communicate.

A soldier has a gun and a shovel. Their “execute” is straight-forward: dig a trench, shoot at the right target. As a leader in a business or otherwise, our execute is done through other’s actions. We set those actions in motions by “communicating”.

Everything is Communication

I’m not just talking newsletters and slide presentations, although these have a place. We “communicate” in almost everything we do in a business, including but not limited to: hiring practices, performance reviews, weekly one-on-one meetings with our direct staff, giving feedback, what we choose to delegate to whom, who we fire, who we promote, who we don’t promote, what we celebrate, who we pursue as customers, which customers we chose to drop, etc.

These are all forms of and opportunities to communicate.

What Most Businesses Suck At

. . . and yet when my clients ask they’re employees what their company could do better, “communicate” comes up over and over again. So ask yourself the following two questions:

1. Do you communicate with your subordinates often and well enough?

2. Does your boss communicate with you often and well enough?

If you ask a room full of managers and executives these questions, many of them will answer “Yes” to the first question, and “No” to the second. Even with their bosses and subordinates in the same room at the same time answering in the same way. Without a hint of irony.

Think about it – are you really better than your boss at understanding where the company is going, and conveying it to your direct reports if she’s not doing a good job with you? Really?

Communicate Until You’re Sick Of It

How much do you need to communicate? Constantly. I like to tell my clients that if you tell everybody in the company the same thing seven different times in seven different ways, it might stick. When you’re sick of talking about your company’s values, vision, and goals, when you think you can’t give the same spiel one more time, then you’re probably just starting to communicate enough.

Who’s the best communicator you ever worked for? What do you think they did well that helped them get their message across?

2 thoughts on “Communicate, Navigate, Execute

  1. Bernie,
    Thought you would enjoy two messages on the front wall of the operations center in which I have started working. “What should I be doing?” and “Who else needs to know?”.
    Timless advice for an intense multi-disciplinary and time-sensitive ops center. Applicable advice for anyone not working alone on a deserted island.


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