Communication is one of those buzzwords that is almost becoming cliche. Problems with your kids? Probably because of a lack of communication. Problems with your spouse? Probably because of a lack of communication. Problems at work? You get the picture.
Masjids are no different. The reason that communication within a masjid is unique is because it is not similar to any other construct we are familiar with – a business, corporate environment, family, or even other non-profit organizations. The masjid is also unique because there are usually different age groups with different communication preferences (think phone calls vs. text messages).
How frustrating is it to have to still call a masjid for their Ramadan/Eid announcements instead of being able to check the website? Why is it that you talked to one member of the administration who told you to follow up with someone else, then when you did, they had no clue what you were talking about?
Communication is necessary to make sure everyone is on the same page in regards to the direction and vision of the masjid. It’s necessary for each and every individual project within the masjid.
Without communication, an organization cannot move forward. It is the vehicle by which the vision is communicated to others, and they all know what their part is in achieving that.
So how do we make sure our masjids have a proper communication model in place?
Rule #1: Attitude
Many times we find people who talk down to others. Simply put, this turns others off, so stop. We also find that a negative environment is nurtured when communication is lacking. People choose to keep others in the dark, on purpose, for some ulterior motive. You begin to wonder, at some point, whether these people are even involved in the masjid for the right reasons or their own personal self-fulfillment.
To fix this, make your attitude one of peer-to-peer communication. It doesn’t matter if you’re the president of the masjid, or if you personally paid for the construction of the masjid. The masjid is the House of Allah – not a private club. Everyone is equal there, so communicate like it. Communication that is paternal will inherently fail (you’re not anyone’s daddy).
Never humiliate anyone with your communication.
Avoid mushroom communication – leaving people in the dark and feeding them manure.
Rule #2: Over-Communicate, Over-Communicate, Over-Communicate
The easiest way to lose cohesion within any organization is for someone to feel left out of the loop. Picture yourself as a member of a 7 person masjid board. Let’s say they held a meeting about approving a $100,000 parking lot expansion (a project you are personally extremely passionate about). You weren’t able to make the meeting, but you open your email the next morning and see a community newsletter indicating the parking lot project was rejected.
Even if you weren’t able to make your case, didn’t you at least deserve to know before the rest of the community? Make sure you never leave anyone else in that position. If you leave people to make assumptions, they will almost always assume negatively.
Communicate early, communicate often.
Rule #3: Diversify the Platform
This is one of the most difficult challenges. Everyone has different communication preferences: In-person, telephone, text message, online chat, email, or some other tool. A true leader will make sure to follow rule #2 above, and make sure everyone receives the communication in the format they want. If you know someone in the masjid doesn’t check text messages regularly, don’t be stubborn – pick up the phone and call them.
Yes, it’s annoying when people don’t read their emails regularly. Yes, it’s easier to send out a quick email update to 15 people. But if you know someone won’t check it, go the extra mile – as a true leader – and over-communicate with them. Isn’t that extra few minutes worth building better team cohesion? Building more rapport? Avoiding unnecessary conflict? Building stronger brotherhood/sisterhood?
This brings up one final point. Part of the masjid conundrum is that it is unlike any other model – and this includes remote management. Many businesses now can be managed remotely (i.e. without ever being physically present). Proponents of this model then will focus even more heavily on forms of communication such as email, because they can give direction without showing up.
In a corporation this is okay, but in a masjid this is a sign of weak leadership. The masjid, more so than any other place, demands a physical presence. The masjid is there to serve the community’s needs, and if the leadership is not physically there, it is impossible for them to truly know what those are. If you can’t get in the trenches, you don’t deserve to lead.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book Death by Meeting, suggests corporations have a maximum 5 minute daily check-in every morning to review any major ongoing issues. Perhaps masjids should implement the same every day after fajr or ‘isha? This is not to say that only people who attend regularly can be involved in the masjid – but anyone in a leadership or decision making authority should.