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.
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.