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    May 30, 2023

    Communication & Performance Success

    At some point, everyone has played “whisper down the alley.” The outcome is almost always the same: the final version of the story or message can be very different or have nothing to do with what was originally intended. In our daily work lives, often an important piece of information or policy ends up being misinterpreted or not heard by the right people. No matter how well intentioned the original message, it is vitally important that communication is clear and shared in a way that it is understood.

    Some employees thrive off a more fluid work environment, while others need more structure. Always feeling unsure about how a manager views their progress and effort is a common reason for an employee to look for a new job. Understanding how to communicate effectively with each team member can set up a manager for success. That can benefit the company’s bottom line.

    The first step in helping managers at all levels is understanding why a manager is communicating in a certain way. How a manager communicates is influenced by their own background – what they’ve experienced from other managers and what they feel was effective in their own career. Not understanding how those they manage are hearing them can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and push some employees to disengage or even end up not trusting their manager. It leads to burnout and increased turnover. To retain talent, every organization should work to improve communications at all levels.

    What Your Company Can Do

    • Like any skill, practice and coaching can make a very positive difference in helping managers become better communicators. Review what your company currently has in place to help leaders at all levels be more effective communicators and measure if those efforts have produced the results company leadership would like to see.
    • Look at written communications and see if they are simple and direct enough for everyone to understand. Remove more complex language and work to make sure any new concept is thoroughly explained in simple language. Make sure you are getting feedback from key employees to continue to improve messaging.
    • For verbal communication, set up practice sessions for managers, particularly new managers, to help them better understand their own communication style. For example, a person moving from sales into a management role in customer service may need coaching. Helping them understand more impactful ways they can communicate to build a better team is good for their career and for their team.
    • It’s also important to recognize that managers need to be able to hear what an employee is communicating, even if it is very different from their own style. Good communication includes the ability to be an active listener. A simple exercise is helping managers learn how to quickly recap what they’ve been told and ask if that is what the employee intended. The manager then gets the right information from the employee and the employee knows they have been heard.

    In busy environments, it can sometimes be difficult to take the time to craft communications, but every organization should emphasize the value of good communication. That extra time can result in fewer mistakes and misunderstandings that can end up costing the organization. It is up to leadership to regularly check in to make sure that managers are becoming more effective communicators.

    Some of the key areas when communication is most important: 

    • Any time there is a major policy change or a major change in the organization or within a team.
    • When a new team member is being on-boarded. Quality communication with new team members can mean better integration with the existing team.  
    • Recognizing that a team member may be going through a personal or professional change and opening communication can help a manager retain that employee. Some of these issues may include more difficult topics like a major illness for themselves or a loved one, a death of some they care about, or feeling that they are not being challenged enough in their role. These can be difficult conversations and managers need the communications skills to successfully facilitate the conversations.  

    Every manager also needs to recognize when they may not be the right person to have a conversation. Being a skilled communicator is recognizing that it is not always about them being the best person to either share a message or lead a conversation. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good manager. It means they have the knowledge to know who should be doing the communication so that both employees and the company gets the best result.

    Every employee wants to feel heard. Every employee wants to feel included. So much of that depends on the quality of communication. It is foundational to building trust in a team. A focus on better communication empowers everyone to contribute and be at their best, helping your organization stay competitive.


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