Communicating effectively as a Manager
Published by: LifeWorks,
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Communication is at the heart of everything you do as a manager. Studies show that managers spend as much as 80 percent of their workday communicating. All of this communication has a purpose, whether it’s sharing information, trying to change a behavior, working to solve a problem, or building a stronger relationship with a new employee.
10 ways to improve how you communicate
Employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are 3x more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less.
- Create an atmosphere of open communication. Keep people informed. Give updates on regularly scheduled meetings about work, projects, and organizational changes. Encourage others to share relevant information with the group as well.
- Respond to messages and requests from employees promptly whenever possible. If you don’t have time to respond today, send a quick reply saying when you will have time to respond. And then be sure to respond by that time, if not sooner.
- Never be too busy to be interrupted for concerns or unexpected issues. Have hours that you’re available to talk. If you have an office, keep the door open during these hours.
- Encourage people to stop by. If you’re busy when they try, don’t let them slip away. Make an appointment to see the person later or call as soon as you break. Thank people for stopping in.
- Tell the truth. Otherwise, you undermine your credibility and reputation. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Then offer to find the answer, if appropriate. Employees understand that you can’t share information that isn’t yet official, but they do want to be kept “in the loop” when information is available.
- Explain your decisions as much as possible. What were the primary considerations that went into the decision and who was involved in making it? Explain as much as you can. Giving reasons for your choices demonstrates respect for your employees and minimizes misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and the spread of rumours.
- Speak clearly and avoid jargon. Avoid making promises to your employees that you then have to retract. Use language that does not overpromise, for example, “Based on what I know now, I think we can budget for three new laptops this year. But we will have to get our final budget approval to know for sure.”
- Encourage people to be open and candid. Show employees you’re serious about creating and sustaining an open atmosphere by being open in your interactions with them. For example, if it’s not confidential, tell employees what news you’ve heard from your boss or at management meetings. Check with your manager when you’re uncertain if you can share company information.
- Make appropriate personal connections with employees even when you’re busy. Personal connections don’t have to take a lot of time. Sometimes all it takes is a simple question like “How was your weekend?” or “How did that meeting go this morning?” Pick up the phone or send an email. When you can, connect in person. However, avoid connecting with your employees on social media—don’t send or accept friend requests. Letting your professional and personal worlds combine on social media can cause discomfort, inappropriate privacy breaches, and even legal problems. If social media is part of your organization’s business process, make sure you and your staff understand the usage guidelines and follow them strictly.
- Give—and ask for—frequent feedback. Make sure you mention positive performance when you see it. Talk with your employees individually when you need to address a shortcoming. To reduce defensiveness, focus on their actions, not their personalities. Giving feedback in person is best. At the same time, ask for input from employees and your manager.
Communication scenario #1
31 percent of employees say they wished their manager communicated more frequently with them
- Take the time to have regular one-on-one meetings with all of your direct reports. Review workloads and assignments and discuss expectations and concerns. Regularly scheduled time with employees, every week or two is the best way to ensure that people understand the work and have the support and comfort level they need with you to be productive.
- Take the time to explain and review goals. Reviewing individual goals is a productive way to spend your time as a manager. Tie the work to organizational objectives so that employees understand not only their work but the business as well.
59% of employees don’t know what their organization stands for
- Listen and ask questions at your meetings with employees. Do employees know what’s expected of them on a given project or assignment? Research shows that this is critical information for your hardest-working employees. Have you gone over the project timeline together? Are they certain about what all of the deliverables are? Do employees have the tools they need to do the work?
- Be sure employees know where they can go for coaching, answers, and information. Encourage people to sign up for training and other opportunities so they can grow in their jobs. Point out how projects and short-term, cross-functional team assignments are some of the best ways to learn new skills.
Communication scenario #2
- Avoid communicating when you’re angry or feeling highly emotional. In highly charged situations, take the time to gather your thoughts. Draft an email or notes for a future conversation, and then come back to it the next day when you’re feeling less emotional. Never send an email or text when you’re upset, it may make the situation worse.
- Apologize. Maybe you spoke harshly to an employee, overreacted at a meeting, or criticized someone too harshly. If so, an apology is in order. It’s best to offer it in private and in person.
- Deliver sensitive information tactfully and carefully. If you have personal or confidential information to share with an employee, arrange a time to talk when you can speak together privately and devote both the time and the attention needed. In general, it’s important to respect your employees’ privacy.
- When there is a conflict, talk about it directly and promptly. Help employees understand that resolving conflict requires to give and take from everyone. Talk about it, listen to them, and then agree on a plan to move ahead. If you need support in resolving a conflict, seek help from your manager, human resources (HR), or your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Communication scenario #3
Delivering bad news
- Don’t put off delivering difficult or bad news.
- Choose the right time and an appropriate place to deliver difficult news.
- Be prepared and have all of the facts and information you need on hand.
- Tell employees what’s happening and be clear on the facts.
- Give people plenty of time to voice their concerns and listen carefully.
- After giving the group enough time to absorb the news, talk about actions you will take as a group moving forward.
Tip: Follow these same guidelines when delivering bad news to your manager.
Be prompt, prepared, and direct when having the conversation. Summarize what happened. Then explain what actions you’ve taken and are taking to deal with the problem.
Communication scenario #4
Giving praise both often and regularly
- Keep in mind that people have different personalities and communication styles. Some people are intimidated in a direct manner. Some people aren’t comfortable responding on the spot to their manager; they need the time and space to think things over before answering. Observe people’s differences in communication styles, and try to engage with them in their preferred way as much as possible. Make it a priority to fully understand and respect the unique job challenges of each employee who reports to you.
83% of employees think it’s better to give someone praise than a gift
- Actively listen. Make an effort to fully understand what another person is saying—before you respond. You need to pay attention and not let your mind wander. To do this, make eye contact and don’t interrupt, check your email, or take calls while you are having a conversation with them. You may want to paraphrase what the other person tells you using your own words to be sure you understand. It’s a way to clarify and confirm information.
- Ask people what they think. It’s a sign of respect. You can say, “How do you see it?” or “What do you think?” or “Walk me through your thinking on this.”
- Set a positive tone. Being a positive communicator means offering recognition, support, feedback, praise, and encouragement. It means discouraging negativity, gossip, and unproductive complaining among the employees you manage. Avoid engaging in negativity yourself. Remember that you lead by example.