Improve Communication Skills for Top Performance
The primary responsibility of any manager who leads a business unit team is to get important work done by executing a project or assignment through others. At the heart of the skill set for directing people’s efforts is productivity through effective delegation. This requires developing communication skills to a high level. Most managers would accept this premise but take it for granted. They have a blind spot to where their own communication skills are effective versus areas that are counterproductive.
In the typical dialogue between a manager and a member of their business unit, as it regards delegating a task or assignment, the conversation is not well conceived and has a tendency to drift along. Issues that affect both the employee and manager’s understanding of the assignment are affected. The result is often far less execution success and lower productivity. If they meeting conversation between the manager and employee is important, whether delegating work, motivating or coaching, an efficient and effective conversation has three primary objectives:
- The manager must make the message 100% understandable
- The manager must confirm that the employee’s did “receive/understand” the intended message conveyed by the manager.
- The manager needs to exert some level of control over the flow of the message(s) being communicated.
- Effective listening on the part of both manager and employee are vital to the success of the discussion.
There are specific steps and processes that every manager can control and implement in order to maximize the positive effects of communicating with their employees.
Clarity of the Message
Getting things done means attaining “productivity” as a result of manager/employee communications. The test is whether the intended outcome was achieved. If not, the most successful managers work to determine where the communication may have broken down. The key is to use words that are simple, clear and avoid ambiguity. The manager should have developed a clear picture of the objective of the communication with the employee. The more crystal clear the managers vision of the results to be obtained, the means to attain them and the authority to be assigned. Understanding the employee’s level of knowledge and technical ability in the area being discussed is critical. The manager can avoid words that are not easily understood by a given employee and use plain and direct communication at the employee’s level of understanding, the less chance for ineffective and ambiguous communication.
Basic Communication Skill Set
- Effective Communication = Confirmation – During the communication process, the manager must seek opportunities to confirm that the employee has understood the important parts of the message. This is a simple process of taking the time to “play back” or review the employees understanding. This is a process of “telling the employee what is to be accomplished, re-stating the manager’s key message again and having the employee re-state what was said. This allows the manager to confirm what the employee understood and make any corrections to that understanding to achieve clarity. Certainly, a fundamental management skill.
- Context is King – Remember, most people have different ways of receiving a communicated message. Some rely on the “verbal” communication message. They hear and process the words. Others are much more visual and “see” the actions or results being communicated. People use both during a conversation but may rely more on one that the other. This requires the manager to frame their message in both a clear verbal context and a clear visual context. You start with as clear a broad context for the message as possible and then break that down into relevant specific context. The words used must clearly describe both the broad context and specific elements, and the words must paint a picture of what is being communicated.
- Who – What – When – Where/What- The manager has the opportunity to apply a simple formula of technique to achieve the communication objective. In the verbal & visual message, make it abundantly clear “who is involved in the communication objective:
Who is involved in the assignment or outcome desired?
- What exactly is to be accomplished?
- When is the expectation to be completed?
- Where will future actions by the employee take place and/or what tools and resources will be used?
Periodic Updates or Progress Review – Any assignment or action task of importance will have a timetable for completion and interim points for a progress check. This might be daily, weekly or monthly depending on the importance and urgency of the communicated assignment. Here it can be as simple as reviewing the factors in #3 above and asking simple questions to confirm the status of the communicated expectations. Effective listening is at play here and the manager has an opportunity to not only confirm the progress but coach-up the employee in any areas needed to reach the objective.
In the end, the effectiveness of communication between manager and employee must always start with the manager. If the work to be accomplished or the purpose of the communication is important, it is important enough for the manager to be prepared to communicate a clear verbal and visual picture of what is to happen.
The Management Leadership Zone is a website dedicated to both management news and management and leadership development. Our website is intended to be “open source” for those who become members to be able to add content. Our publisher and founder, Michael D. Moore is a 40+ year veteran entrepreneur and corporate executive in the Banking and Insurance Industries.