Help With Communications Issues Book Review

The Communication Problem Solver: Simple Tools and Techniques for Busy Managers

By Nannette Rundle Carroll, AMACON Books, NY, Nov. 2009, 304 pages, $18.95.

This new book may seem a little simplistic at first glance, but it contains real help for managers experiencing communication problems inside their organizations.

Nannette Carroll is a faculty member of the American Management Association, and is experienced in helping managers and companies with communications issues.

The topics covered in the book are not new. The approach, however, is clearly focused on showing how managers can identify potential problems and then address those problems with sensible steps that will improve the communication capability of the manager. Four examples of the topics examined are as follows:

-¢ The notion of setting clear expectations is explored in some depth. The descriptive material on six specific communication problems in chapter 2 will assist a supervisor or manager looking for solutions.

-¢ The concept of using questions to build effective working relationships and assess business issues is developed at some length, and it includes sample questions built around a construct of four types of queries:

-¢ Open -“ expecting a wide range of answers.
-¢ Closed -“ looking for a short or a yes/no response.
-¢ Behavioral -“ examining past behaviors to predict the future.
-¢ Situational -“ hypothetical circumstances are built to see what the response would be.

-¢ The book includes a catalogue of some common issues that managers will confront with people. The issues identified are: (a) managing friends, (b) managing former peers, (c) problems with direct reports, (d) clearing up communication problems, (e) helping employees with their communication problems, (f) managing up, and (g) handling organizational concerns. All of these are very real issues, and the author presents a good discussion of each one coupled with suggestions to address the key elements.

-¢ In several areas, the author suggests sharpening listening skills. Also, the entire chapter 11 is devoted to listening. It contains a good discussion around the linkage between good listening skills and improving relationships, identifying issues with clarity, and developing sound solutions to problems.

This is a solid book aimed at helping overcome communication problems. While not profound or filled with new revelation, it delivers helpful information in an organized and readable fashion. The scenarios provided by the author help keep the issues in realistic perspective while offering constructive ways for a manager to respond.

Bob Clark is the president of RWC Consulting LLC and has more than 30 years experience in labor-management relations. He provides consulting help in labor relations and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich.