When it comes to company culture and leadership effectiveness, there might not be a more important tool than communication. A lack of communication can result in a myriad of undesirable outcomes including decreased productivity, lower morale, more mistakes, and decreased innovation to name a few. Unfortunately, communication may be the area where most companies and managers fail. Today, we see an over-reliance on emails (especially inter-office emails), meetings that are boring and ineffective, managers assuming that just because they say something once, everyone will understand them, and an employee base more used to getting information via the rumor mill than any reliable source. As a result, many problems that we experience in the workplace today are simply a result of poor communication.
Research from TinyPulse’s 2017 Employee Engagement Report suggests that there is a major disconnect in employees’ and managers’ perceptions of communication, whereby managers feel they are communicating effectively, yet employees still feel they are not getting the information they need. The problem with communication comes when we – managers and owners – fail to realize that without understanding, communication does not happen. Remember, if the person you are talking to does not understand you, you are just making noise. Think about Miss Othmar, Charlie Brown’s teacher – “Wah wah wah, wah wah, wah.”
To ensure understanding, there are some important points you should remember as a manager.
When speaking, keep messages short and simple. Get to the point and repeat it often! As Winston Churchill, the famous UK Prime Minister said, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then, come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time—a tremendous whack.”
Check for understanding by asking the right questions. Here’s a hint – the right question is not, “Do you understand?” Instead, you need to ask staff, “What did this message mean to you?” or, “What are your next steps going to be?”
When speaking, remember the importance of nonverbal cues and tone. It’s easy to tell by someone’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice whether they truly believe in what they are saying, or whether it’s just some BS words they’re speaking. Represent your buy in 100% by ensuring your nonverbal cues support the words being said.
When writing, especially in emails, ensure correct spelling and grammar. Avoid writing in all caps, using exclamation points, or emojis. One of the most important aspects of email communication is the subject line. Ensure your subject line is clear so people can easily determine its importance and relevance.
When doing, remember – actions speak louder than words. Your staff watch your behaviors, and if they are not aligned with your words, you are not communicating clearly. Lead by example by setting a great example.
When listening, managers must be approachable and available. This means being someone your staff can talk to, and someone who makes time for communication. While we meet many managers who indicate they are always available for their team, this must go beyond just being physically present. Employees talk a lot today about managers who try to convince their staff and themselves that they are listening while also writing emails or sending texts. Managers must be more respectful of their employees’ time and do a better job of putting down their electronics when their staff wants to talk.
So, focus on your communication skills and think about whether or not you are communicating effectively and being truly understood.
Thanks for reading. Please reach out and connect with me at ShaneGreen.com. If you like our message, there are a lot more insights like these in my book, Culture Hacker, available today.