Hello Communication Studies Students,
As we transition from one calendar year to another, the holiday season and New Year reinforce the importance of communication. From spending time with family, to exchanging gifts, to making those New Year’s resolutions—how we communicate is just as important, if not more, than what we communicate.
This principle while commonly known continues to manifest itself on a daily basis. Case in point: Chip Kelly. Kelly’s short tenure as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles is an important lesson whether you are a leader or group member. When Kelly left the University of Oregon—he was perceived as a “genius” who would revolutionize the NFL with his no huddle offense that was innovative in its use of formations, plays, and speed.
However, less than three years into his tenure, he was dismissed by the very same individuals who were wowed by his football brilliance. Despite having two 10 win seasons, a playoff appearance, and an overall winning record—he was let go with one game remaining in the 2015-16 season. While the Xs and Os might not provide the answer to his plummet—coverage by local and national media did. Kelly’s downfall centered more on his communication skills or the lack there of.
Despite his experience/knowledge, Kelly’s inability to connect with a majority of his players, his stubbornness to adapt to his players’ strengths, his failure to define their roles, and his inability to adapt to the NFL environment—all undermined his ability to lead and thus coach (it will be interesting to see if Kelly improves upon these skills as he was recently hired by the San Francisco 49ers). Referring back to Kelly’s tenure with the Eagles, Kenneth Burke’s ideas ring true--effective communication is about bridging divisions and inducing cooperation by creating identification among those in the communication process.
As Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stated, “You've got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance. I would call it a style of leadership that values information and all of the resources that are provided and at the same time values emotional intelligence. I think in today's world, a combination of all those factors creates the best chance to succeed."
Lurie’s comments are about communication. As an audience-centered process, however, the group also is part of the communication process. While Kelly might not have been the best communicator it doesn’t absolve the players’ responsibility in the situation. Did the players help or hinder the communication process? Did anyone ask the coach questions such as: How can I support you? How can I be useful? What is needed from me? After all, as stated consistently by former players on the NFL network—the responsibility for a player’s performance falls squarely on the player. They have to be accountable to perform at their maximum level.
This example, reinforces the salience of the communication major. Don’t overlook the communication theories and principles (that focus on sources, messages, and audiences) that can effectively improve the communication within any industry. What you learn in class can and should be enacted in each area of your life. It’s vital to know how to lead AND how to be led. It’s a simple yet complex phenomena that society continues to learn. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles.
Sincerely, Dr. Brown
Timothy J. Brown, Ph.D.
Special Assistant to the Provost, Professor and Chair,
Department of Communication Studies West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383 610-436-2500