Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries

The Role of Good Communication in a Successful Career

Stan Allen and George Nandor

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch47

The fisheries world we work in (and want to continue working in) is actually a very small world. Just like any small community, everyone knows everyone. We went to school with them, worked with or for them, heard about them, are on a committee with them, lived in the same small town with them, or met them at an American Fisheries Society meeting. Just like any small community, the speed of information exchange often seems to exceed the speed of light, with negative news spreading quicker than most!

Everything you do or say (or don’t do or say) can affect how you are perceived by others and your reputation. Communicating appropriately is a part of how you conduct yourself professionally. Investing time and energy in learning and improving your communication with individuals within your organization, partners, and others is a worthwhile endeavor. If you are not sure what method you should use or with whom you should be communicating, ask. There are numerous books and training sessions on effective communication, and we encourage you to explore these resources. Being professional in your communication is important because you are not only representing yourself, but also your supervisor, your team, and your broader organization. If you want to have a long and successful career in the fisheries world, your reputation is everything—so make it a good one, both on and off the job!

After a cumulative 40+ years of working for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and another 40+ years working for state fish and wildlife agencies, we have learned how verbal and behavioral communication can lead to successes or problems in your career. We put together some key lessons that we have found valuable to help you avoid some of the more frequent communication pitfalls we have observed.

Whether it be written, verbal, or physical (yes, we do communicate physically), communication is an integral part of our work. Whether you sit at a desk and write computer programs all day, have an administrative job, or are a fisheries technician on a large field crew, communication is key. Understanding the appropriate and inappropriate methods of communication is crucial; there can be too much communication, but much more often, the problem is not enough of the right communication at the right time or to the right people. Another key part of communication is listening. As Henry David Thoreau (1849) reminds us, “It takes two to speak the truth—one to speak and another to hear.” In a lot of situations, misunderstandings and issues would not happen if you or we had communicated in the right way to the right people at the right time, and if we had listened to what was being said.