The saying that “people do not leave their jobs, they leave their bosses” is overused, but true. In employee exit surveys, the most frequent employee complaint is about their former supervisor’s communications skills—too little, too much, too ineffective.
Poor communication does account for a multitude of workplace woes — including interpersonal conflict, wasted money and effort, poor productivity, legal exposure, low morale and high turnover. Most communications difficulties arise from three basic deficiencies:
- Ineffective relationships and information flow among managers and their employees
- Lack of the proper systems and infrastructure to enable effective exchange of information
- Breakdowns in communication by management to employees during tough times.
Everyone is not born a great communicator, but most of us can learn. Here are some of the basic things that we can do as managers and supervisors to refine our skills:
1. Establish clarity.
When you give instructions or discuss a business situation, do not assume that everyone understands you. Ask whether you have been clear or if further information or explanation is necessary. Often, different people make different deductions from the same information, and proceed in good faith to do the opposite of what the manager expected. Good communication results from a two-way process of asking the right questions, confirming what you’ve heard and achieving common understanding. The focus is not on right or wrong but on “are we on the same page?”
2. Give meaningful feedback.
While a well-considered annual formal performance evaluation is a valuable communications tool, do not limit feedback to a once-a-year event. People do not like surprises, and they want an opportunity to develop and improve throughout the year. Provide continuing, constructive, on-the-job evaluations focusing on situations as they arise, while they are still fresh in everyone’s memory. Do not forget to highlight the positive as well as the negative. A great practice is also to solicit feedback from employees. Ask if there is anything that you can do as a manager to make their jobs easier or more satisfying.
3. Find the time.
As managers are busier than ever with their own heavy workloads, it is easy to forget that an important part of a manager’s job is managing. It is critical to carve time out of your schedule for regular one-on-one and group employee meetings. While it is totally appropriate to make employees aware of your time pressures, offer your undivided attention during these meetings. Taking telephone calls or allowing other interruptions will convey to employees that you do not consider their concerns a priority.
Management Success Tip
In this age of electronic communication, far too many managers use email as a substitute for personal contact and interaction. Would you try to arrange and close a deal with a large customer via email? Would you hire a key executive without meeting this individual? Of course you wouldn’t. More direct contact will help create better rapport, better trust and ultimately better productivity.
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- Copyright © 2012 Marcia Zidle business and leadership coach.