Category: Team Building (page 1 of 3)

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

Lose the Battles But Win the War

Fighting All Battles

When I was a young supervisor I wanted to fight battles. Every problem that needed to be solved I saw as a battle to win. Being focused on winning these little battles that it made me short-sighted. I did not see the long game and because of it, I damaged relationships and my reputations.

A lot of new supervisors and managers run into this problem. And if truth be told, I still struggle with it from time to time. But I have gotten better at understanding the long game and have become better focused on winning the war. In other words – winning hearts and minds.

Understand the Long-Term Goals

To put it another way, problems come and go. We need to keep them in focus and in scope. Understanding what the long-term goals are can help. Focusing on where you want to be and what the ideal situation looks like with all concerned parties in mind is the way to win the war.

Not every problem needs to be solved. And not every problem needs to be solved to your satisfaction. Sometimes we must let others win to build and grow relationships.

This doesn’t mean that we sacrifice things that are important to us. It just means that we need to prioritize what things are important and which are just nice to have. The nice to have things we can live without meaning we can let them go allowing others to get some things they want.

What is Important?

Equally important is understanding what things are important to our long-term success, and the success of the team, organization, etc., can help us to focus on what matters and let go of things that don’t matter.

By changing our focus from picking battles to winning the war we open our view to what’s good for us to what is good for the organization. We become team players. And in this way, we will win more than we lose.

Being picky about what battles you fight shows others that you are willing to compromise. It shows a level of maturity. And it brings more people into your circle of influence.

People want to be around a winner. Winners understand the importance of other people to their success. It is only by being able to engage, inspire, and work with others that we can become winners.

Questions to ask when determining the problem resolution path:

1. What will be the long-term effects of your problem resolution?
2. Consider the cost-benefit of the problem resolution?
3. What are the relational costs of the problem resolution?
4. How will the resolution benefit the organization?
5. Does the resolution leave other people whole?
6. Do alternative solutions exist that may lead to better outcomes?

Lose a Battle to Save a Relationship

Ultimately, whatever path you decide to take when dealing with a problem make sure you understand all the ramifications before acting. Once you damage relationships it can be hard to repair them. Make sure that you have clearly defined the problem, the relationships involved, the effects of certain actions, and what the long-term consequences of your actions are.

Keep the long-term results in mind. What you do today can have negative consequences that can take years to overcome. Better to move slowly and lose a battle than to lose the war and your career.

Accountability is About Correction not Discipline

Accountability Not Blame

Accountability is at the heart of leading and managing people. It is about holding people to a standard and then ensuring that they are maintaining that standard. What it should not be about is blaming people and punishing them.

Holding people accountable for their work and addressing underlying issues that are the cause of performance deficiencies should be the goal of a manager or supervisor. Blame assignment should not be a part of this process. And in most cases, the first response shouldn’t be about discipline. Instead, you should be looking for the root cause of the problem, assigning responsibility, and then working with the employee to correct the cause.

Too often managers and supervisors shoot from the hip when addressing performance issues. Instead of taking the time to gather facts and think about what the long-term consequences of their actions are, or what they are looking to achieve, they just jump into blame and punish mode.

When this happens, it serves the opposite purpose of what should be the intended outcome. The manager’s or supervisor’s goal should be the discovery of the root cause of the performance deficiency and then working with the employee to resolve it. Improvement of the individual’s performance should be the focus.

The Goal of Accountability

The purpose of holding people accountable isn’t the same as discipline. Accountability is about establishing performance expectations, communicating them, and helping employees understand where they are falling short. Correction of deficiencies and improvement of performance are the key.

Accountability is not discipline. Discipline may become part of the process after you have performed the other steps necessary to address root cause and help the employee improve performance, but it should not be the focus.

Begin With the End in Mind

Anytime a manager or supervisor is addressing a performance issue they should be thinking about what the end goal is. What does the ideal state of performance look like and how does it differ from the current state. But you also need to consider what the goal is with your relationship with the employee and their relationship with the team. If you have read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you will recognize this as Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind.

So often we are operating from a state of putting out fires that we don’t always take the time to really think about what the end goal is and what affect our actions are having on individuals in our organization and our team.

When addressing performance issues, the key is to identify what you hope to achieve in the correction of the problem. And to make sure that those actions are in line with overall company and team goals and objectives.

In most cases, the end goal is to maximize efficiencies to ensure profitability. To accomplish this, you need to motivate your employees to want to perform to a level that meets these objectives. Your accountability objectives should be focused on the best way to improve employee performance by engaging the employee in the solution and motivating them to want to correct it.

Placing blame does not motivate people. Being concerned about them and their performance does. Having a genuine concern for the success of the individual, and framing the problem resolution in that light will motivate much more than placing blame.

An Accountability Strategy

When accessing your accountability strategy consider the following:

  • What is the end state that is desired?
  • What actions can I take to try to reach this end state?
  • How will the employee perceive your actions?
  • In what way will your actions affect the team?
  • How will your actions help reach organizational goals?
  • What is the best way to identify the root cause of the problem?
  • How can I help the employee improve their performance?

Accountability is about setting clear expectations, goals, and consequences (both positive and negative). The goal is to help employees improve their performance with the end goal of meeting organizational objects. It is not about placing blame but is about identifying the root cause of performance problems and correcting them with the end in mind.

Scarcity in Management and Supervision

What is a scarcity mentality and how does it related to management and supervision?

A scarcity mentality is a belief that there is a limited supply of some resource. It is a belief that where one person gains another must lose. I have seen a lot of supervisors and managers who demonstrate a scarcity mentality when it comes to giving praise and recognizing the contributions of others. These managers feel threatened due to their own insecurities.

Do you believe that if somebody else comes up with a better idea or receives the recognition that it diminishes your contributions?

There is a level of emotional insecurity that belies the belief that when someone benefits somebody else loses.

If you are secure in your abilities and contributions then you should never feel threatened when somebody else achieves something that exceeds what you have contributed.

The scarcity mentality is destructive not just to the individual manager or supervisor but also to the team. Believing that another’s gain is a loss puts you in a competitive situation with your fellow managers and subordinates that is damaging to relationships and team cohesion.

If you believe that to get ahead you need to take ownership for all good ideas you will stifle your team. It will cause them to withdraw and not contribute. An atmosphere of distrust will develop that will undermine your ability to lead effectively.

How do you overcome a scarcity mentality?

First, you need to realize that there isn’t a limited amount of recognition that is available. The ability to recognize and to be recognized is unlimited. Just because somebody else has a good idea doesn’t mean it takes anything away from you.

Also, you need to recognize that if somebody on your team comes up with a great idea or innovation it will benefit everybody on the team including you.

Second, embrace and show support for those who bring innovative ideas to the team. As a leader, you will get more recognition if you lead a team that continually contributes innovated ideas no matter who comes up with them. Leaders who encourage and recognize innovation will succeed far more than those who do not.

Third, understand that one good idea generally leads to another good idea. Instead of a lack of something, there is a true abundance. You can build off the ideas of others to come up with something even more beneficial. Remember to give credit to the originator of the idea that you used as your jumping off point.

Finally, get over yourself. Put your own ego aside. Have a genuine appreciation for the ideas others bring to the team. Being part of an engaged team that is trying to improve the organization should be exciting. Take it as a badge of honor that you have people working with you who care enough to share their ideas. Be a manager or supervisor that inspires people by recognizing their good ideas and contributions.

A scarcity mentality only creates division, destructive competition, and distrust. It leads to people pulling back and not contributing to the greater success of the team.

Let go of your insecurities and realize that the world is infinitely abundant. We all have something to contribute and there is no limit to the amount of recognition that is available. By celebrating the contributions of others, we create a workplace that inspires and encourages innovation.

Recognize that you are abundant, your workplace is abundant, and the world we live in is abundant. What is good for others is good for you and vice versa. Be thankful for others. Their contributions will lead to your success if you open yourself to the possibilities of abundance.

Empathy for the Person Not Just the Employee

It is easy to have empathy for our employees and the struggles they face at work, but do you also practice empathy for the individual person?

An employee’s happiness and satisfaction at work aren’t tied just to the internal factors of the workplace, they are also a product of external factors that originate in the employee’s personal life.

Our employees are whole people, not just one-dimensional beings. And while we can’t control what happens outside the workplace we none the less need to be aware of anything that is going on in an employees personal life that is impacting their work life in a negative manner.

Our concern also needs to be about the person, not just about the effect that the problems are causing on their work performance.

Empathy has to come from a genuine place of concern. It can’t be manufactured or superficial.

So what can a manager or supervisor do for an employee that is having issues outside the workplace?

To start with you can listen. Just be available to understand their problems and offer a sympathetic ear.

A word of caution on this though – even though you want to be empathetic you cannot solve their problems. You also cannot be their counselor, spiritual advisor, or psychiatrist.

Make sure that you establish clear boundaries. You don’t want to take on their problems or allow their personal issues to be an excuse for poor work performance.

Second, you can reach out to your human resources department to see if there are any employee assistance programs (EAP) that can offer counseling service that might be of benefit to the employee.

Smart companies understand the impact personal issues can have on employees. These companies offer many employee assistance programs to help employees navigate difficulties in their personal lives. Often times these services are free to the employee and 100% confidential.

Managing people requires that we find ways for our employees to have good work/life balance. It means that we need to be aware of workplace stress as well as personal issues that are causing a loss in workplace satisfaction.

Even though we cannot resolve an employees personal problems, allowing ourselves to be personally consumed by them, we can offer empathy, compassion, and resources to help them deal with the issues in their own time and manner.

Our employee’s happiness may not be our responsibility but creating an atmosphere where it is more likely they will be happy is. And the best way to create that atmosphere is to practice empathy, to care about your people, and to be available when they need you.

For more on the personal side of management check out my other post The People Connections – Making for a Happy Workplace.

 

 

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