Communication is a central component to strong operational management. It’s the best way to connect with employees and to understand the state of your workplace. With that said, every manager can work to improve their communication style. If you hold this position, consider the possibility that you may have fallen out of touch with the concerns of the group you supervise.
Improving your communication skills is about more than running question-and-answer sessions, though. It involves active listening and thoughtfully responding. Here are a few ways you can help your company thrive with effective communication tactics:
Ask yourself what you need to improve
Maybe you’re a great communicator, but there’s always room to make progress. One way to evaluate your listening skills is to set aside a few minutes to quietly examine yourself as a communicator. Start by asking yourself a few of these questions and recording the answers:
- What’s your preferred method of communication? Do you utilize all forms including email, in-person meetings, phone calls and interacting with employees using objective and key result management software? If not, try utilizing different methods to improve interactions.
- Who are the best listeners you’ve encountered over the course of your life? Think about supervisors, teachers from childhood, parents, mentors, friends and counselors. Why do you feel they were such great listeners?
- Have you had trouble connecting with certain team members in the past? If so, why? Take into account differences in personalities and working styles and whether those affected your ability to effectively listen to their concerns.
Don’t wait to talk. Listen.
Resist the urge to defend yourself in the moment and let the employee finish speaking.
This is especially important when performing check ins and performance reviews with employees. When you ask a question during your regular check ins, let yourself settle into listening intently instead of waiting to talk or jumping in to respond.
This may be especially challenging when employees give feedback on your management style or overall company structure. Resist the urge to defend yourself in the moment and let the employee finish speaking. Only then should you take a second to think and respond. This will give team members the freedom to speak their minds – as a supervisor, you need to hear from your staff as well as from anyone who may be above you in the organizational chart.
Allow your employees to prepare for these meetings by emailing a loose agenda on what you’ll be covering together. You don’t have to include every fine point you’ll bring up, but a general guide can be a great help. Include in the guide their performance, room for improvement, recent successes and feedback for you. This will give employees the opportunity to prepare answers instead of being put on the spot when asked about their workflow and performance. As they’re speaking, pay attention and listen. You can take notes during these sessions if they help your recall. Review these notes a few hours after the meeting when you’ve had time for the discussion to set in. Recognize ways you can better yourself and create an environment in which staff can thrive.
Focus on building trust
Communication helps build trust in any relationship, including the one between supervisors and employees. This commitment to trust and listening should go both ways. Staff should pay attention and adhere to instructions and guidance from their supervisors, and supervisors should develop trust and take into account what employees are saying.
It may be tempting to ignore employee feedback, especially if you know they’re out of the loop on certain accounts or operational changes. But ask yourself why you’re keeping employees out of the loop at all. Are you protecting them or protecting upper management in a constructive way, or are these communication gaps damaging the trust you’re working to build? If you really can’t tell employees the specifics of what’s coming around the bend, at least let them know that some changes will be coming up in the near future and that they shouldn’t worry. When those changes are announced, they won’t feel blindsided – they’ll feel prepared and will continue to trust their managers.
Once you’ve evaluated your own communication style and focused on active listening to build trust, use those skills to motivate your staff. As a manager, you’ll find employees may be more apt to trust in your leadership if they feel a personal connection and have faith in you as a competent head of the team.
Now it’s time to inspire your staff and help them thrive. Use OKR software to help them set goals and to congratulate staff on a job well done, and work with and around different team members’ needs.
For example, some people may love working on accounts in a group, while others dread the prospect and would rather buckle down at their desk and work alone. If you’re interacting with the latter type of employee, help make concessions to give them the room they need to thrive. Then, when working in a group becomes necessary, you can take a moment to express to them that working independently isn’t the best company solution for this particular problem. Showing an employee that you recognize their struggles and preferences for success will help you maintain the strong relationships that you’ve built together.