Effective communication lets you create shared meaning and understanding between you and your team. These 5 skills are must-haves for any manager looking to get their messages heard and create a productive work environment where employees can thrive.
5 Must-Have Communication Skills for Any Manager
1. Set the context
Every employee comes into the workplace with his or her own context, a mixture of culture, memories, upbringing, and experiences. Part of the role of a manager is to create a shared vision for the entire team. Make sure employees understand the big picture and how they fit in. Constantly communicate the “why” behind the business plan: why the plan is important, the role your team plays and the critical role individual employees play.
Every time you communicate with an employee, answer the questions:
- What’s in it for me?
- Why should I care?
Link what’s happening at the larger organization to your department in real time, and make it a point to talk about how employees’ work relates to the company’s success.
When you fail to set context and paint the larger picture, you contribute to the silo mentality, one in which employees can’t see why their individual contributions matter.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat
One common communication mistake I see is the “check-off-the-box” mentality. People see communication as a one-time event. They say things like, “I sent out an e-mail” or “I already communicated that.”
Research shows that many of us need to hear a message multiple times before we get it. Communication isn’t something you can check off a to-do list. Building trust and credibility is about communicating a message consistently across multiple touch points. When employees hear the same message repeated, they’re more likely to take notice, believe it, and most importantly, act on it.
3. Create dialogue and check for understanding
Every time you communicate, there’s an opportunity to find out if your audience gets what you’re saying. The job isn’t done when the message is sent. Make sure the message is really heard and understood.
Create opportunities for conversations that establish understanding and spread knowledge and expertise.
Ask your audience to paraphrase what they heard. If you want to know if your audience understands the “what” and “why” behind a strategy, ask them, “What challenges and opportunities do you see with what I’ve explained?” If you want to know whether they heard your key messages or need additional context or detail, ask them, “What are your key takeaways from the information I just shared?”
Building opportunities for questions and dialogue into your communication helps you measure in real time how well employees receive your messages.
To make your communication effective, you need to learn what’s working well, what’s not, and most importantly, how things can be better. That involves listening—and listening some more.
Ask broad, probing, open-ended questions, which allow the listener to take the conversation in a direction they choose, such as:
- “Help me understand…”
- “How do you envision…”
- “What other strategic alternative did you consider?”
Ask employees for feedback:
- Think about in what environment employees would be most comfortable sharing input (feedback channels can be informal or formal)
- Share your motivation for getting feedback
- Engage people fully and listen to what they have to say
Follow up on their ideas so they know their voice matters. What you do with feedback speaks volumes to employees:
- Let them know, “I like that idea…how might we put that into place?”
- If you’re not planning to implement their idea, it’s important to tell him or her why.
No matter whether you plan to implement ideas or not, close the loop with employees. Showing appreciation for their feedback lets them know their thoughts are valued.
5. Use calls-to-action
As you communicate, think about what actions you’re trying to drive. Your communications should help move your audience to action. What do you want employees to do as a result of your communication?
Clearly communicate the actions you want them to take. Be specific and give examples. Without a call-to-action, your message is just information.
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Which of these skills can help you communicate more effectively with your employees?
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