Author: Randy Trelka (page 1 of 28)

Good Communication – 8 Tips for Giving and Receiving

Who is Responsible for Communication?

Communication is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. It can be a subject that makes a lot of managers and supervisors cringe.

As leaders, we face a lot of heat for not communicating well enough. This is sometimes an honest assessment. But what about our employees? What responsibility do they play in good communication in an organization? And what can we do to improve our communication and encourage them to communicate better?

When it comes to communication issues the onus is generally placed on management. Fair or not this is the reality.

Even if we think we do a great job of communicating it doesn’t make a difference if the people we lead don’t think so.

Also, we can gripe all we want about how poorly our employees communicate the reality is that we can only control our own actions.

So, how do we overcome a sense of poor communication on our part and get our employees to communicate better?

In this post, I will discuss what I believe are the keys to good communication and discuss how we can use them to get our employees to communicate better.

Some of these tips may seem rather basic, but as you go through them really analyze how well you practice each one. I think you will be surprised to find out that there are at least a few you do not do so well.

Tip 1 – Minimize distractions

Too often we allow ourselves to be distracted when we should be listening. Distraction comes in many forms including looking at our phones, checking our emails, or just allowing our thoughts to wander.

If we are not focused on the concerns and questions of our employees when we are communicating, then we are only going through the motions.

To establish a clear line of communication we need to be focused on those we are communicating with.

Before you set out to have any type of communication make sure that you have freed your schedule and put aside anything that might offer a distraction. Finish up important emails ahead of time. Leave your cell phone on your desk. Put your phone in silence. Clear your mind of everything but what you need to be focused on.

Tip 2 – Practice Good Listening Skills

Is this one a no-brainer? Not by a long shot. Listening is something we can all do better no matter how good we think we are at it.

Good listening requires attention, genuine concern, empathy, and feedback.

Attention means we are not distracted (see tip #1 above). It means we are focused on the individual(s) we are communicating with at that very moment.

To truly listen to others (i.e. hear and understand what they are trying to say) we need to have a genuine concern for them. This means we care about understanding their position. Saying we are listening without care for the individual is disingenuous. Employees can see through false concern and it will end with damaged trust.

Finally, good listening requires feedback. This can come in two forms: 1) repeating back in your own words what the employee told you, and 2) discussing your own thoughts based on what you heard.

By giving feedback, you demonstrate not only that you heard the employee, but also that you understand their perspective. When you give your perspective, you are engaging the employee in an open back and forth. This builds trust and opens the lines of communication.

Tip 3 – Follow Up on Questions and Concerns

Good communication requires a feedback loop. We receive communication by practicing good listening. It is then continued through the way in which we respond to what we hear.

We can encourage or discourage communication in the way in which we respond to it.

How we respond to communication will tell our employees how important their ideas and concerns are to us.

Make it a point to follow-up on all communication in a timely manner. Get back to employees regarding questions and concerns they have. Even if you can’t resolve an issue to their complete satisfaction at least follow-up with them to let them know you acted to try to find a resolution.

Tip 4 – Always Make Time to Listen

Finding time to listen is in many ways tied to minimizing distractions, but it is more proactive.

What I mean here is that when somebody stops you take the time to hear them out. Let them know that they are important and that you genuinely care what they have to say.

Don’t blow people off. If you are too busy let them know you want to hear what they have to say. Let them know that while you have something important to do at this moment you want to listen. Then schedule a time to get back to them. Finally, keep your commitment.

One other aspect of making time to listen – schedule time to just walk the floor and engage your employees. Pick a time when you have nothing else vying for your attention. Then just talk to, and listen to your people.

Tip 5 – Ask for Your Employees Opinions

Too often managers and supervisors think they must have all the answers. This just isn’t true. The best leaders always seek out the opinions of their team before making important decisions.

Besides getting the best ideas from a wide range of people another benefit of seeking input is that it builds trust in relationships.

So, the next time you find yourself struggling with a problem, try asking the people on your team for their opinions. By doing this you will demonstrate that you trust and value their opinion. Then use their ideas to solve your problems.

Don’t forget to give credit when you use an employee’s idea. Make sure you show gratitude and never take credit for an employee’s idea.

Do this often enough and you will find your team coming to with ideas without your needing to ask.

Tip 6 – Communicate Face to Face as Often as Possible

In the era of modern communication, it is easy to send a text or email and think that we are communicating properly. And while these tools can offer an effective and easy way to communicate they cannot replace the human side of relationship building.

Therefore, it is important to make sure we are communicating face to face as much as we can. This is especially true when we are required to deal with HR or personnel issues.

We can become too reliant on technology when it comes to communication. To show concern and interest in others we need to be physically present to them. People need to see us and be able to connect with us on a personal level.

It is hard to make personal connections through emails and text messages. I go into more depth on this subject here.

Tip 7 – Offer Constructive Criticism

Sometimes we are required to give criticism to others. This should not be a bad thing. If we have a genuine concern for others we should want to see them improve. For others to improve they need to know what they are doing incorrectly and where they are falling short.

When we offer this criticism, it should always be constructive. It should be approached with a concern for what is in the best interest of the other person.

Your communication with your employees should always be focused on what is best for them and want to improve things with their interest in mind. The goal should be about aligning the employee’s interests with the interests of the organization.

Check out more on employee feedback here.

Tip 8 – Get to Know Your Employees

If you really want to get your employees to communicate better get to know them. This means getting to know them on a personal level. Who are they outside of work? What interest do they have? Are they engaged in any hobbies? Do they have a wife and children?

Taking time to get to know our employees on a personal level is another way to demonstrate your concern for the individual. Again, getting people to want to communicate requires trust. If you show that you care about them as a person, and not just an employee, you will build that trust.


In conclusion, we can gripe all we want about how poorly employees communicate, but it doesn’t really make a difference. The only thing we have any control over is ourselves and our actions.

This doesn’t mean we can’t change how employees communicate. It does mean that we must do a better job of getting them to communicate better.

By practicing the 8 communication tips I laid out in this post you will become a better communicator and you will bring out better communication in those you lead.

You can choose to do nothing and sit around and complain. Or you can get to work and create a team that communicates better, trust more, and achieves more. It is up to you.

Here are some other resources that I think you will find helpful. I used these in doing my own personal research and thinking about this topic. Comment below to share your thoughts on this post and share ways that you have engaged your employees in communication.

How to Encourage Open and Honest Communication

5 Ways to Get Your Employees to Speak Up

How to Communicate with Employees

4 Tips for Encouraging Communication

Priorities – The Foundation of Effective Time-Management

Priorities are the foundation of effective time-management

Setting and know what your priorities are is the key to true time management. I spent the past two posts discussing organizational tools to help you manage time. I started there first to focus on the tools that make time management easier. But sitting down and determining what your priorities are is at the heart of effective time management.

How to determine the order of your priorities

Effective time management requires that you know what you want to accomplish and how to prioritize all the activities required to reach your goal. Your goals can fall into many time horizon ranges including immediate, short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals.

You need to define which time range goal each activity falls into to categorize the level of priority to assign it. The level of priority will determine when it needs to get accomplish and when it needs to get accomplished.

Let’s look at the different goal time horizons.

Goal Time Horizons

Immediate range goals are those that can’t wait. These are immediate emergencies or high priority items. These can be a business-critical systems failure, and employee disciplinary situation, or a financial emergency. These are items that can’t be put on the back burner and must be addressed immediately.

Short-term range goals focus on items that while not immediate must get done sooner than later. They can be anything with an end date of anywhere from a day to a month. You may have a little time to accomplish them, but they will be due over a very short period.

Medium-term goals are generally those that need to be accomplished within a month to one-year. These goals take more planning and resources than short-term goals. While you have more time to accomplish these goals you need to keep them on your radar to avoid losing focus.

Long-term goals are any goals that are more than a year into the future. These are often larger projects that require a great deal of planning and groundwork to prepare for. It is important to set up monthly or quarterly checkups to ensure you stay on track with these goals.

How to use goal time horizons to set daily priorities

Now that we understand goal time horizons we can see how we can use them to establish daily priorities.

Good time management always begins the night before. Every evening you should sit down and review your priorities for the coming day. Once a week you should make time to review your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. I have read and have found it useful to sit down on Sunday evening to go over these goals.

Whatever time you choose for your daily and weekly reviews be consistent with it. Perform this review at the same time every day. Make it a habit so that you will be more likely to do it consistently.

Daily Reviews

For your daily review start by writing down any immediate items you know will require your attention the next day. If you don’t have any make sure to keep in mind that there will be some and you will want to build some cushion into your schedule for dealing with those items.

Next, review your short-term goals and write down all the activities you need to accomplish to meet those goals. If you have specific items that will take a specific time to complete schedule them.

Finally, review your medium-term and long-term goals to determine if any actions need to be taken on them over the next day. If so, put those activities on your schedule.

Weekly Review

When performing your weekly review, you should focus more on the medium-term and long-term goals. Because these are longer time-horizon goals you need to only spend time with them once a week. This frees you up during the week to focus more on the immediate and short-term goals.

During your weekly review you want to focus on what needs to be done, and by when, to accomplish these medium and long-term goals. Decide what tasks need to be accomplished in the coming week and put them on your schedule for the week. Then when you perform your daily review you can schedule around these longer-term tasks.

In Summary

Priorities are the key to your time-management activities. Using your time effectively requires that you have a firm understanding of what your goals are and the time-horizon for your goals. This will allow you to focus on more immediate items while keeping a focus on goals with longer time horizons.

Performing daily reviews allows you to always stay focused on immediate and short-term goals. Staying focused in the near term will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Weekly tasks allow you to evaluate what you need to work on in regards your medium-term and long-term goals and get them on your schedule in a way that balances your time in dealing with shorter-term priorities.

Time management is about balance. You need to balance your time between the things you can control and the things you can’t. It is a balance between the planned and unplanned. Life is imperfect, and you must remain flexible. If you follow this plan and make use the tools we discussed in the previous posts you will find greater peace and control in how you manage your time.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Time-Management Basics – Part 1

5S Your Work Space- Part 2

Your Calendar is Key to Managing Your Time and Priorities – Part 3

Your Calendar is the Key to Managing Your Time and Priorities

Keys to an Effective Calendar

To begin with, it doesn’t matter what calendar program you use whether Outlook, Google Calendar, or some other app. What matters is that you make the most of the technology available.

Use whatever program you like and are comfortable with to manage your time. The key is to establishing ownership of your time by setting reminders to maintain focus and performing weekly reviews to ensure priorities make it into your schedule.

This is the third part of a four-part series on time-management. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Own Your Time by Putting It on Your Calendar

In a previous post, I discussed some quick tips that will help you own your time. In that post, I briefly discussed the importance of using your calendar to gain ownership of your time. Scheduling priorities on your calendar allow you to protect your time and get things accomplished. Focusing on what is important to you is the key. Also, scheduling your priorities communicates to other people what time is off limit.

Allowing others to determine how your time will be spent forces you to focus on their priorities and not yours.

If you want to get something done put it on your calendar. As Stephen Covey said, “The key point is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

Time is your most valuable resource. It is the only resource you have in abundance. It may not feel like it if you have allowed others to own your time. Liberation will come when you acknowledge that you own your time.

By scheduling your priorities, you take complete ownership of your time. Putting priorities on your calendar makes that ownership real.

In my next post, we will talk about the importance of priorities and discuss some ways to go about establishing them.

Use Reminders

After you have established ownership of your time the next thing you need to do is keep yourself focused. One of the most underused tools in calendar apps is the reminder. People tend to put things on their calendar and then fail to follow through on those items.

Using the reminder gives immediacy to your scheduled priorities. It gives you a heads up that your priority is due and keeps it front of mind. Use your reminder to keep you on track and focused on your priorities.

Weekly Reviews

Finally, scheduling a weekly review will help priorities stay scheduled and protect against infringements of your time.

The weekly review should be a scheduled block on your calendar. It should be a one-hour block of time that is reserved for doing calendar maintenance.

This is your time each week to ensure that your priorities remain on your schedule. It is also the time where you will ensure that others have not taken control of your time.

This time should be scheduled at the end of the week, so you can review the previous week and plan for the next week. Maintaining your priorities on your schedule is the key. Take time to review your priorities, what you have accomplished, and what you need to accomplish.

Make sure your schedule for the coming week conforms to what you want to get accomplished. Clean out items that conflict with your goals.

In Summary

Good time management requires that you know what your priorities are and that you create a schedule that aligns with those priorities.

Your time is yours and you need to protect it. A calendar app is the best tool for accomplishing this task. By scheduling activities that conform with, and support your priorities, you take ownership of your time.

Next, reminders help to keep you focused and on tasks. They help to prepare you for the work that you have set as being important.

Finally, weekly reviews help you to maintain your focus. By looking back on what you got accomplished and looking ahead to what you need to do you get to set your action plan to keep you focused and effective.

By scheduling your priorities on your calendar you protect your time and establish ownership over it. And when your priorities are scheduled you will not be living somebody else’s priorities.

5S Your Work Space to Get Control of Your Time

What is 5S?

5S is a component of Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing. The main goal is to make the work area organized to optimize performance. It requires all unneeded items to be removed from the work area and everything else to be organized in the most efficient manner. Once the work area is properly organized it must be sustained to ensure top performance is maintained.

While it was originally put into use in manufacturing environments it can also be employed in office environments or anywhere work is performed.

The components of 5S are as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Why Implement 5S?

With the above facts in mind, we can look at why 5S is a good method for helping manage your time and getting your workspace organized.

First, let’s consider time management. How many times have you come into your office only to become frustrated by the pile of stuff you have laying on it. It makes it difficult to find what you are looking for. Getting anything done requires you to spend time putting things in order. And a messy desk causes you stress and anxiety.

So, getting your desk in order can help you begin to prioritize the items on it. Once the items on your desk are prioritized you can get to work getting things done.

Second, 5S is a precise methodology that tells you exactly what you need to do to get organized and stay organized. By following the 5-steps of the process you will great rid of the clutter and create a system of sustainable organization. This will help you manage your time and your stress level.

Getting Started

Now that we know what 5-S is and why its important let’s talk about getting started. You need to set time aside to start. Don’t allow for any interruptions. Dedicate yourself to completing the 5-S process.

Before beginning take pictures of your work area. All workspaces, inside drawers, shelves, and desktops. These pictures will serve as a reminder of where you started. When you look back it will be important to remember why you did this work and what you want to avoid.

Next, make sure that you have a space to take items you do not need but others may have a use for. Also, have garbage bags and cleaning supplies available.

Once you have your time scheduled and all items required it is time to get to work.


To begin the process you must sort everything on your desk, in your desk, and around your desk. You will make three piles:

  1. Garbage
  2. Good but don’t need
  3. Keep

Garbage is just that. It is junk that serves no purpose to you or anyone else. This includes old paperwork that is no longer required to be kept. Broken tools and office supplies. And any other junk that no longer has a useful purpose.

Good but don’t need – this is stuff that you no longer need but others in the office may be able to use. Maybe it’s an old textbook, some guides, office supplies, or any other still functioning item that you no longer need. If you have not used it for 6 months consider getting rid of it.

Keep – an item that you have used in the past 6 months or need to keep as a part of your job.

Set in Order

Now that you have sorted through all the clutter you are ready to begin to set things in order. The key point to remember is that you want to find a place for everything and everything in its place. This is key.

Organize your work area so that items you use frequently are nearest at hand and items that get used less frequently are put in a place where they can easily be found when needed but stored neatly out-of-the-way.

It is a good idea to make use of file organizers, storage containers, and labels. If you are putting something in a drawer put a label on the outside of it so you know what’s in it.


So, you have sorted and set everything in order. Now it is time to make it shine. Simply put you are going to give everything a good cleaning. Get our your cleaner and rag and start in.

As you are cleaning look for the causes of clutter and dirt and come up with ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If your desk gets cluttered because people are always putting paperwork all over your desk, then get an inbox and clearly mark it so people know to put paperwork in it.

Remember, you are going to want to sustain the cleanliness so consider taking 5 minutes once a week to clean your work area.


Standardization is about making things stand out visually. You want to be able to quickly look at your work area and notice if something is out-of-place. You can do this by using shadows for things like a stapler, tape dispensers, and other work tools. In your drawers, you can have organizers clearly labeled. If you have bookshelves you can label them to clearly show what books go where.

Additionally, you can take pictures of your work area after it has been cleaned and standardized so you have a visual tool of how you want to maintain your area. This can be posted as a reference to use in the sustain step.


The final step is to sustain your efforts. To do this put a half hour to hour block on your schedule at the end of the week. I suggesting scheduling it for the last hour of the day at the end of the week. Make sure you put it on your calendar and block this time.

Once a week you will pull out your sustain picture and ensure that your work area looks like the picture. If it doesn’t use this time to get it back in order. Then pull out your cleaner and rag and clean all areas.

To see an example of an office 5S implementation check out this short YouTube Video.

Concluding Thoughts

Ultimately, you are only as effective as you are organized. If you take the time to get your work area organized and make it a priority to sustain it you will have a much better chance of making better use of your time. It is hard to feel in control of your time when you are stuck under a pile of clutter.

By implementing 5S you will have a systematic method for getting your work area organized and keeping it that way.

Once you have your work area organized you can move on to the next step in managing your time – your calendar.

If you haven’t read the first article in this series on time-management check it out here.

Go to Part 3 in this series.


Time-Management Basics: Quick Tips For Getting Control of Your Time

The Big Problem of Time-Management

One of the biggest issues all manager’s face and something I get frequent questions about is time-management. How do we gain control of our time and stop allowing people and problems to control us?

In this post, I will look at 3 basics that will help you build a foundation for taking control of your time. In the next couple of weeks, we will delve deeper into some more advanced time-management techniques.

Basics of Time-Management

To begin with, I want to lay the foundations for good time-management. If you want to gain control of your time you need to create a solid foundation. That foundation begins with a good organizational focus in the following areas:

  • Workspace
  • Calendar
  • Priorities

These three areas need to be organized, and made good use of, in order for you to gain control of your time.

Let’s look at each of these three areas in more depth before we look at the five basics of time-management.


Let’s begin by looking at your workspace. If you have a dirty, cluttered, and unorganized workspace you will spend more time looking for things you need then getting things done.

So, the first thing you want to do is get your workspace in order. The best way to do this is by scheduling time when you won’t bet interrupted to perform a 5S event in your work area.

5S is a tool used in lean manufacturing to help create a work environment where all tools are organized and readily available where the work is being done. And while it was developed as a way to organized manufacturing areas it can also be used to organize office areas.

I will go more in-depth into 5S for the office in a future blog post but for now, you can check out this Slide Share presentation that does a good job of going into what 5S is and how to implement.

If you can get your work area organized it will give you a solid foundation for having what you need, when you need it, and being able to find everything that is important to do your job.


Another key item that is underutilized by most managers is your Outlook or email calendar. Your calendar is the number one tool you can use to prioritize, allocate, and protect your time.

While you can utilize the power of your calendar by use of a paper-based organizer I highly recommend taking advantage of Microsoft Outlook calendar or Google calendar.

The reason I say this is that an online or electronic calendar allows you to communicate your priorities to others. It allows you to immediately show other people when you do and don’t have free time available and better protects your time from interruptions.

Learning how to use your calendar to organize and communicate your schedule is a key component to time-management. Again, we will go into further detail in the coming weeks into how to make the best use of this tool.


Finally, we look at something that seems straightforward but is not – priorities. You might think that your priorities are something you just know and don’t need to spend much time on. But how you determine what needs to be a priority and how to rate them is more complicated than you probably realize.

Priorities are a product of your most basic values. And before you can set your priorities you must determine what things to value and put an order to those values.

If you do not have your priorities in line with your values you may end up chasing priorities that are not in line with what you value. When you do this you will end up wasting your time and energy. This will leave you feeling frustrated and exhausted.

To Sum Up This Post

Time-management is one of the biggest issues that a manager struggles with. Too often our time is wasted because we haven’t taken the time to take control of our time. If we build a good foundation for time-management it can set us on the road to making good use of the resources available to use and ensuring that we are spending our time on the right things.

The three basic elements of time management are your workspace, your calendar, and your priorities. And over the next three weeks, we will break down each one of these areas and demonstrate how to make the best use of each.

Go to part 2 – 5S Your Work Space to Get Control of Your Time.

Older posts

© 2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑