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March 16, 2020

6 Tips to Improve Front-Line Leader Communication


Employees count on information from their managers and supervisors to understand what’s happening in their organization and how their work connects to the overall strategy. Yet managers aren’t always ready for the task.

While employees rank managers as their most preferred information channel, many managers feel ill-equipped to communicate consistently, according to research from Gartner. And more than a third (36%) are challenged in responding to negative reactions or difficult questions from their team members. In addition, 80% of change is driven at the manager level and 50% of managers are resistant themselves, according to Prosci data.

Here are 6 must-dos to help front-line leaders engage with employees and be more confident communicators:

  1. Consider your audience’s needs – Put yourself in the employee’s shoes, what’s happening in their day-to-day work, whom they work with and what issues are important to them. Think about things from their perspective, imagine what you’d care most about and what questions you would have if you were them, and communicate with that in mind. 
  2. Understand the strategy yourself, then offer context to your team – Review any provided information with an eye to translating it for your team and contact your leader for answers to your questions. You will be a more confident communicator if you are clear on the goals, strategy and key initiatives first. Once you feel comfortable with the subject matter, share the knowledge to your team. 
  3. Be concise and make information relevant – Keeping your audience’s needs in mind, focus on the important information that’s most relevant to them and why it matters. Where possible, boil down topics to three key points – they will be easier for people to remember and retain. 
  4. Listen carefully and invite feedback – After you share information, ask employees what they think and what questions they have. Demonstrate active listening by tuning into their tone as well as what they say, and watch body language for additional clues to how they are feeling. Ask clarifying questions to be clear on what they need and restate what is said to confirm you understand. 
  5. Respond promptly and thoughtfully – One of the most important ways to build trust with employees is being responsive to their feedback and questions. Do your best to answer questions when they are asked, and if you don’t know the answer say so and follow-up within 24 to 48 hours. If they make a suggestion for improvement, circle back to let them know if you plan to implement their idea in some way, and if not, why not. Being an active advocate for your employees’ ideas and responding to their concerns shows you respect and care about them. 
  6. Be self-aware when interacting with employees – As a leader, your role is to listen and be open to others’ points of view. Don’t be tempted to form your response before the other person has finished speaking. And even if you don’t agree with an employee or if their feedback is critical, avoid being defensive emotional in response. Show respect by listening to what they have to say, and answer calmly with something like, “Thanks, I’m glad to know that. Let’s talk about what we can do to fix that.”


When to use it

What you can say

Find the answer

When you don’t have an answer to someone’s question

“I don’t know but I’ll work to find that out and get back to you as soon as possible.”


When asked an unrelated question

When someone argues with you

“It’s important to remember… (key message)”

“(Brief statement of what you know), then:


  • “What I can tell you is… (key message)," or
  • “What you should know is (key message)

Restate the vision and the plan

When a question asks about details that aren’t defined or still in progress

“We are not clear yet on all the details:


  • Our vision is… and we will share details when they are available.
  • It’s a work in progress and we need to collaborate to figure out the answers.”

“We’re still working on that, but what we do know right now is…”

Refer to resources

When information is available in a common source

“Let’s check the information available on the…(intranet site) and FAQs”

Employees rely on their supervisors and managers to interpret the company strategy and help them understand their part in making it successful. Focusing on these tips and communicating consistently can help front-line leaders engage and connect with employees to improve their performance and satisfaction.

Which of the above ideas, if focused on, would help you be even more effective when communicating with your employees?

—David Grossman

Click below to download the ebook—Make the Most of Your Town Hall: 10 Ways to Unleash the Power of Your Team—and get 10 ways to transform your traditional town hall to inspire and engage your employees.
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