Effective communication goes beyond speaking and listening – and for those in leadership roles, this is an essential skill.
For managers, communication with staff can be a fine line to tread. Too casual and lenient and you run the risk of losing respect, resulting in a team that doesn’t take direction well and crosses boundaries. Too autocratic and the respect also drops away – plus you can alienate your team, resulting in mistrust and underhanded behaviour. The good news is there is a sweet spot in the middle, where your leadership is valued and respected, your staff come to you for information, advice and direction, and they feel confident that you are all on the same team. Here are our top four effective communication tips for managers.
Actively build rapport and connection with your staff
To avoid issues being swept under the rug and to build stronger working relationships, make sure you take the time to get to know your team members. When you have a connection and rapport with your staff, they are more likely to come to you with questions, ideas, and feedback, and to voice concerns of any kind or let you know when they’re struggling with work or personal matters. Be open and demonstrate empathy. No matter should be too small to talk to your staff about – as small matters can easily grow. Make sure that any problems are followed up promptly. If this line of communication is free and open for all, the result should be a happy and productive team.
Vague information will only confuse your team and leave them wondering what you meant and how to move forward. Try to communicate any information clearly and in an appropriate tone, so that everyone knows exactly what it is you’re saying and feels comfortable with how you’re saying it. This should be paired with reasoning – for example, ‘why’ it needs to be done as well as why it needs to be done this way. Follow this up by checking for understanding and feedback, to ensure that your message has been accurately received, and is both understood and agreed with. Be open to questions, clarification or disagreement regarding your information; providing opportunities and creating culture for your staff to ask questions and provide feedback, in an appropriate manner, creates an environment of respect and a more engaged workforce – plus their feedback is likely to be helpful.
Of course, communication is not just talking. Active listening is an important skill for anyone, especially for those in a leadership role. When a staff member has come to you, whether it’s for advice, to voice a grievance, or to share a win, pay them your full attention. Check you have received their message by repeating it back to them and by asking open questions. If you’re not sure on how to react to what you are hearing, it is okay to ask your staff member for time to think it over. Sometimes this is better than voicing an unconsidered opinion and then regretting it later – and it shows you’re really listening!
Watch for cues
Communication isn’t just what you say verbally; it’s also what you say with your body. Body language speaks volumes, so be careful to watch for it in others and yourself. Check if the person you are speaking to is folding their arms or clenching their jaw, for example – this could mean they disagree, even if their words say otherwise. Another cue is if they are looking at their phone, especially if what you have said has taken some time. If you suspect there is more to be said, ask for their opinion or thoughts. Try to draw their true thoughts out, because when people don’t feel able to communicate fully, it can often cause resentment.
Developing communications skills benefits leaders and the business. Freerange Works offers an Essential Communication Skills for Managers Workshop where your leaders will get insights into their own communication style, tendencies, and improvement areas, and be given tools and models to support them to drive quality conversations. For more information contact Sarah Brooke at firstname.lastname@example.org