by Jennifer Tobkin
by Jennifer Tobkin
Starting on the path to success is about more than cutting costs and marketing your company’s services more effectively. Pep rallies and corporate retreats are expensive, and they usually do not lead to long-term solutions. To make your business more successful this year than it was last year, you might need to change what you say instead of what you do. It is probably a good idea to change how you say it, too. The strength of a business rests on effective leadership communication. The good news is that there are ways to learn this elusive skill.
A Business Is Only as Successful as Its Communication
You have probably seen work environments where there is a lot of room for improvement on the communication front. Everyone talks over each other, and no one listens. Managers send long, rambling emails that no one reads carefully. Then the managers call meetings where they berate employees for not listening. Interpersonal conflict is the rule rather than the exception. The worst thing about these dysfunctional workplaces is that sometimes the products or services they offer are awesome. Communication problems are the only thing holding them back from reaching their potential. With more effective leadership communication, these business ventures can become very successful very quickly.
Are Communication Problems Hindering Your Professional Success?
As a manager, you set the tone in your workplace. If you are an entry-level employee in an organization where managers ramble and everyone bickers, the best solution is to look for a new job. When you are in a managerial position, however, it is up to you to turn things around at your workplace. You are only one person, but what you say to your peers and to the employees under your direction makes a big difference. Effective leadership communication is the first step to implementing your great ideas, the ones that got you hired or promoted to your position in the first place.
Obstacles to Effective Leadership Communication
The first step to improving your leadership communication skills is to diagnose the problems in the interpersonal dynamics of your workplace. What are the negative patterns that the members of your work team keep falling into? You should even examine your own bad habits. The source of your workplace communication problems could be right in front of you in the mirror. In most cases, though, it takes more than one person to miscommunicate. Keep reading to find out more about problems that effective leadership communication can correct.
The Medium of Communication Can Make a Big Difference
Marketing professionals know that in order to get your message across, you must you the appropriate channel of communication. They then sink lots of money into focus group studies, only to find out the obvious. For example, Gen Z is most responsive to short-form videos, people in their 30s and 40s to text messages, and seniors to television ads.
Managers could stand to take a page from the marketers’ playbook and figure out the best way to communicate with various segments of their audience, that is, your work team. It might not be as obvious as deciding based on their age. Instead, think of how each individual likes to communicate. Some employees might prefer to receive and respond to important questions by email. They might have various reasons for this. One might want to get to the end of his train of thought without being interrupted by follow-up questions. Another might want to be able to edit and proofread her response before sending it; she might find it easier to express her ideas in her second language in writing rather than in real-time.
Investigating Your Employees’ Preferred Methods of Communication
Find out more about how each of your employees prefers to communicate about work-related matters. This isn’t just a question asking them to click “phone” or “email” on a Google Form. Some people are at their best on a shared Google Doc, while others open up when coffee breaks and small talk turns to weighty subjects. The voice memo, the What’s App group, and the MacGuffin-chasing errand with a coworker can all be venues for valuable workplace communication, if only you will let them fulfill this purpose.
Managers can facilitate communication by encouraging employees to communicate through their favorite communication channels. This means becoming more open to your non-preferred methods of communication. You might actively dislike long phone conversations, but these might be the venue where a certain employee shares ideas that he would never share during an in-person group meeting. Likewise, you might find it distracting when coworkers drop by your office to chat, but they want to tell you their new ideas before they forget them.
You should also make time for your own preferred methods of communicating, whether that is round table meetings, detailed emails, slide presentations, or any other format. It is also important to build time into your workweek when your employees know that you are not available to respond to phone calls and emails.
Transparency Is the Cornerstone of Effective Leadership Communication
Experience may have taught you that you should never lay all of your cards on the table during business negotiations. Management is not a business negotiation, though. Everyone on your team is on the same side. All team members share the same goals. Therefore, you should not share work-related information with some team members while withholding it from others. If you do this, your employees will feel that you are trying to play one against the other. Your work team is not a game of Celebrity Big Brother.
Instead, you should help all of the employees on your team see the big picture. Show them a flow chart of the entire project, and indicate each person’s role. If each coworker knows what the others are doing, this can prevent miscommunication and help everyone work more efficiently. You should also indicate how the project fits into the larger goals of the organization. A slide presentation at the beginning of the project can facilitate communication throughout the duration of the project.
Impulsive Decision Making Is the Antithesis of Effective Leadership Communication
One of the worst habits that you, as a manager, can adopt is abruptly changing your mind. Imagine that a manager has crafted an elegant plan for a project. The manager explains the project to all the employees in the form of a slide presentation and a Google Doc. The employees understand what they should do and what their coworkers are doing. They can reread the Google Doc or contact the manager whenever they have questions. Then, one day, the manager decides to make major changes to the project. Because he changed his mind, the employees must undo and redo work on which they have already spent many hours. It is a waste of time and money, as well as a source of frustration.
Being resistant to change can also be an obstacle to leadership. You must build adaptability into the plans for your project. Be receptive to employees’ concerns and suggestions for plans that you have set. The best way to do this is for your flowchart to have only as much detail as it needs. If you have indicated in your flowchart that it is the task of Michael, Lizzy, and Angel to get from point K to point L in the flowchart, let them decide the most feasible way to do it. Micromanagement makes everyone less productive, regardless of whether the micromanager wants to adhere rigidly to the original plan or to wing it.
Likewise, the saying that too many cooks spoil the broth holds true in management. If you need to adjust the plans for one segment of the project, the only people involved in this decision should be the people it directly affects. The fewer large group meetings you have during the course of a project, the better. When in doubt, apply the principle that the attendees at a meeting should be few enough that two pizzas are sufficient to feed everyone.
How Do You Learn Effective Leadership Communication?
Improving your communication skills takes practice, but you do not have to do it all by yourself. You can take courses on effective leadership communication, either in a group or in one-on-one sessions with a coach. During these training sessions, you will learn about conflict management, conflict resolution, and other important aspects of leadership communication. Effective listening and the psychology of interpersonal conflict are also topics that you will learn about. You can even take courses designed to prepare you to become a Certified Conflict Manager.
If you see that your organization as a whole would benefit from leadership communication training, you can sign up for group training sessions, which can take place in person or online. Effective leadership communication is a universal skill, but training courses specific to certain industries are also available. PeaceComm offers leadership communication training in a variety of formats for individuals and groups. Sign up for one of our training sessions so that you can bring about a work environment where people communicate with each other effectively and harmoniously.
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