Category: Communication

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.

Conclusion

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

Face-Time: The Best Way to Get the Best Out of Your Team

Face-time is what most of our employees want. You may not believe it but if we aren’t present to our employees it shows a lack of concern. Our employees want to know that we care. They want us to be available to offer support for the problems they face.

When you hide out in your office you aren’t involved with their problems and concerns. On the other hand, being visible and present shows that you are interested in the problems your people are dealing with.

Engage Your People by Getting in Front of Them

But its more than just being visible. Face-time also means that you are taking time to engage your people.

If they see you walking around watching but you never talk to them they will assume that you are stalking. Taking the time to engage them shows concern and puts them at ease. By taking the time to talk to them you ensure them that you do not have ulterior motives.

Nobody likes a micro-manager. So, be sure that when you are getting face-time you are also talking to people. Have a conversation with your people. It doesn’t take much. Ask them how things are going at home or what kind of hobbies they are involved in.

Taking time to get to know the people we manage serves many purposes:
  • It shows that we care about the person, not just the employee
  • It allows you to find out what their interests are, so you can find areas of common interest that will allow you to connect
  • Finding out a person’s interest can give you an idea of what motivates them
  • A conversation builds relationships and trust
Other Benefits of Getting in Front of Your Team

Face-time also allows you to get a look at what kinds of obstacles and struggles your people are facing. If you are always in our office, you can’t know what the day-to-day problems are that are challenging your team.

A manager who is disconnected from the realities of the team is set up to fail.

You must be engaged with the work that your people are doing. This doesn’t mean you need to do the work, you only need to have knowledge of the challenges, so you can help implement plans to overcome them.

So how do you ensure that you are getting face-time?

Set a timer or a schedule reminder on your calendar. This way even if you get caught up in something it will remind you to take a break and get involved with your team.

Have a trusted team member give you reminders to take a break. If you have a strong team member you trust you can have them ensure that you are getting the right amount of face-time. They can also let you know where your attention is most needed. Make sure this person is somebody who has a good working relationship with the rest of the team.

Anytime you are between projects or meetings make a round through the work area. Stop and visit with different people each time you go through. Look for positive things your people are doing and comment on it. When you see someone struggling with something inquire as to what the problem is and what you can do to help.

Make sure that you are getting out among your people often enough to engage them. Just don’t overdo it – you don’t want to smother them. Be present, don’t be overbearing.

Be a Manager People Want to Engage With

If you are managing correctly then your people want face-time with you. They want you to be engaged with them. Engaging your people is essential to building a team environment. It builds trust and relationships. The conversations that come out of this face-time will give you insights into what struggles your people face and what things motivate them.

Don’t be a manager who hides in their office and only comes out when things are going wrong. Get out where the action is and be a part of what your team is doing. Be the face of your team by getting in front of your team.

For more team building skills sign up for my free coaching offer here.

Not My Fault, It’s Somebody Elses

But It’s Not My Fault Because…

Do you have an employee who never accepts fault for anything? Does that person always try to change the conversation with the purpose of putting the focus on the faults of others? These employees try to use deflection to ensure the conversation doesn’t focus on their actions.

This is one of the more maddening problems that a manager or supervisor can face. We are trying to get the employee to see their error and then get them to improve on it.

I have written about the problem of employees who won’t accept accountability before here and the same rules apply. But my focus in this post is to dig a little deeper into the problem of those who want to focus on other people’s actions.

The Purpose of Addressing Fault

If as managers and supervisors we are acting correctly the focus of our actions should be on identifying the actions that are causing the problem and addressing them. The focus should not be about attacking the person or viewing at a personality issue.

Remember, you can’t change people. Your focus should be on establishing what the requirements of the job are and then holding people accountable for their actions. It shouldn’t matter if you like them on a personal level or not.

The Underlying Issue is Insecurity

Generally, when an employee is unwilling to accept fault it is due to some insecurity on their part. They may feel deficient in their skills or knowledge. Or perhaps they feel that their manager or supervisor has a negative opinion of them. There may also be underlying team friction that is causing their defensiveness.

Identifying the source of the employee’s insecurity may be important to get them to accept fault and then work on correction. If you understand why a person is reacting the way they are you can develop a strategy that will address the issue in a positive and productive manner.

Not understanding the underlying causes will only lead to stress and conflict.

Addressing the Cause not the Person

When dealing with a person who won’t accept fault the first, and most important thing is to not lose your cool. Yes, they drive you nuts but don’t buy into it. They succeed when you lose your cool because it takes the focus off the problem.
Always keep the conversation focused on the problem, on the actions of the person. Avoid letting personality enter the discussion. Keep focused on actions – what did or didn’t happen.

If the conversation turns to the actions of others don’t take the bait. This is what they want. Say, “I understand there may be other circumstances or reasons but the only thing you can control is your actions” or “I will deal with those issues with those individuals but I want to talk about how you can improve”.

Keep the focus on helping the individual to improve. Don’t focus on punitive or disciplinary action unless you are at a point where it is necessary.

Your goal should always be about helping your people improve. When your people do well, your team does well, and the organization does well.

The most problematic employee will respond in a positive manner if they truly believe their manager or supervisor has their best interest in mind.

As the Manager or Supervisor, You Need to Direct the Conversation

As the manager or supervisor, it is your job to ensure that the conversation focuses on the correct things. You must have the emotional intelligence and the skill to turn the conversation to a productive end. You do this by keeping the focus on the actions that are in the employee’s control.

Help them to understand that what is in their best interest is focusing on their own actions. Your concern needs to be about helping them to succeed. If you can get them to focus on their actions and keep the conversation their you will demonstrate your concern for their success.

At the end of the day hold them accountable. Do not let them redirect fault. Help them understand how it is hurting them personally and how correcting the problem will benefit them personally. Help them understand that you have their best interest in mind – you want them to succeed. Don’t focus on personalities. Focus on actions.

 

Messaging – Its What You Say and How You Say It

Thinking about your messaging – how you deliver a message – can determine how successful you are in your communications.

Messaging is how you deliver a message and why. You need to give thought as to what the desired outcome is that you are trying to achieve. Also important is how the message will be perceived.

A blunt message with no consideration of perception will act like a hammer. It will be an attack and make people shut down.

When considering messaging here are some things to think about:

First, could the message be a negative or a positive? If it could be a negative how could you turn it into a positive?

An example: your team is not meeting its production goals. You need to communicate this in a way that helps them understand how they are falling short but doesn’t make them feel that they are being taken to task. The goal should be to motivate not frustrate.

Can you deliver the message in a way that shows concern for the best interest of your team and puts consideration on achieving organizational goals?

Second, what are you trying to achieve because of the communication? Hopefully, the communication isn’t to instill fear and intimidation.

In the example above it should be about improving your team’s performance. So, the messaging should be about concern for your team and help them to achieve their goals.

Third, once you have formulated the message consider how it will be perceived. In your mind, it may be a benign message but that may not be how others will perceive it.

You must consider how others will interpret your message. Try to see it from their perspective. How would you understand it if you were in their shoes?

Finally, think about what your motivation is. Why are you delivering this message? Is it because you’re upset, excited, encouraging?

If you’re upset and looking to get a quick fix to a problem – STOP. Give yourself some time to cool off and think about a better way to communicate what it is that is on your mind.

Before running head first to address a problem consider your messaging. Make sure you are doing things the right way for the right reason.

Think about how others will receive the message. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you would feel receiving the message.

Make sure your motivations are in line with your values. Don’t allow your emotions to deliver a message that will blow up on you.

Messaging can be delivered in a way that will either motivate or demotivate. By taking a little time upfront to consider what your goals are and how the message will be perceived you can ensure that your communication will be a positive one.

 

Communicating Not Emotional Reaction

Are you communicating or reacting emotionally?

The other day I was communicating with an employee who has a tendency to resort to emotional communications. When they receive information they do not agree with they take an aggressive and attacking style. They are trying to seek out additional facts, but it comes across as a type of blame game. I don’t even think this individual realizes how they are coming across when they act in this way. It would be easy to get sucked into their emotional state and respond in kind. It would be easy, but not productive.

So often we allow other people’s emotions to affect how we communicate. And when we do we lose the ability to communicate effectively.

Listen without responding

What do you do when you feel like your being attacked? Attack back. Right? I know that is my initial response and in my younger days it was my default response. Overtime, I began to realize how ineffective this strategy was. None of us likes to be disrespected or to feel like our decisions are being questioned. But, if we can’t deal with negativity then we are going to get sucked in and find out that we have even less control then when we started.

When dealing with somebody who is emotional and negative the best response is to just listen. Try to understand what is driving their emotional response so you can formulate a non-emotional response that will address their perceived, or real problem.

Before you can resolve any disagreement or conflict you need to listen. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they are saying, only that you need to understand it. If you don’t take the time to understand other people’s perspectives you can’t hope to engage in positive and productive communication.

Communicating through emotions only further generates more emotions in response. At the end both people will walk away feeling frustrated and nothing will have been resolved. Both parties will be even further away from an amicable resolution then when they started.

Respond with questions not answers

An emotional person is seeking understanding and is expressing frustration due to a perception that they are not being heard. So when you respond start by asking questions. Don’t assume you know the answer – even if you do. Ask questions that not only help you to understand, but that also help the other person to think deeper about what is upsetting them. This will allow them to feel that they are being listened to and it will also challenge them to give non-emotional, and hopefully factual, responses to the situation. Asking questions generates thoughtfulness and hopefully recognition of all facts.

Sometimes all it takes to diffuse emotional communicating is to seek understanding. Once the person realizes that you are concerned with at least hearing their perspective it takes a lot of fire out of their emotional state.

Control your emotions and you can control the conversation

If you control your emotions and seek out understanding you will find yourself in control of more conversations. This doesn’t mean that you are always correct, or that you are winning conversations, it simply means you will be able to direct the conversation to an amicable outcome.

Avoid emotional responses. Seek understanding. Find common ground that gets both parties to a resolution that gets each side a bit of what they want.

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