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An Insightful Guide For Managers To Master Communication

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

An Insightful Guide For Managers To Master Communication

We communicate for different reasons such as to convey, to express our thoughts and feelings, to agree or disagree, to negotiate, to appreciate, to discipline and so on,  In each case, our motive is clear so we end up focusing on ourselves and that’s what leaves very little room to understand another’s perspective. Especially in an office set-up, the agenda is so tight and focused that most of us are too busy thinking about our response rather than giving our mind space to the person talking to us. We just want to get over to the next point and complete the agenda rather than meet the desired objectives of the agenda.

In all this busyness, of all the skills you need to be successful as a manager, effective communication is perhaps the most important, most talked about and yet, the hardest to identify and improve. Especially today, with different ways to communicate, the availability of a variety of mediums, tools and more need for connectivity, effective managerial communication is a definitive cornerstone to business success. If you want to be able to implement changes and produce real business results for your company, you first need to learn the skills necessary to have effective workplace conversations in the current context of the situation.

As a manager, one of the most critical skills you need to develop while communicating is to have a clear motive. That’s when you’re able to use the right communication tools to be able to help your team in different ways. There is nothing more powerful than communicating in a manner that truly resonates with employees.

Interestingly enough, communication is not one single skill, but a complex set of interdependent skills. Let’s break down communication to look at each aspect so that it can be used to make a strong impact on people.

Listening and communication:

Sometimes all a person may want is simply being heard and may not even be seeking a solution. Listening is about focusing on the speaker while keeping our thoughts, opinions, prejudices away. A habit of listening well sends out a strong message to your team that their input matters to you. When you’re truly attentive to what your employees are saying, you’ll have all the information you need to evaluate the situation and respond most effectively. A strong leader uses strong listening skills to influence the team positively. There’s no ideal ratio of listening to speaking, but the scale should always tip slightly in favour of listening. As detailed in our blog post here, listening means registering not only what your team is explicitly saying, but what they’re not saying as well. Listening between the lines allows you to uncover your team’s hidden frustrations and challenges.

# Pro tips:

– Listen well and completely engage in the conversation by asking open-ended questions which indicates that you’re interested.
– Ask clarifying questions, paraphrase what you have understood, not what the employee is saying. Remember paraphrasing is not the same as parroting or simply repeating what you are hearing but adding meaning and emotion.
– Avoid interrupting, checking your phone, responding dismissively, dominating the conversation, and jumping to conclusions.

Assertiveness and communication:

Leaders with good judgment but who lack assertiveness are seen as ineffective. Assertiveness is about confidently, clearly and impactfully putting your points across. It is not about being aggressive or disrespectful. It is about holding your ground with a positive composure and should always be backed by background information and strong research. For example, providing directions for any assignments is a normal part of the role of a manager. The more specific and well-articulated your instructions, the more likely they will be followed correctly. This means outlining when the task must be completed and share any quality standards. People do their best work when they understand the importance of the task to the larger operation so helping them establish this link is crucial.

How you provide information through your choice of words, tone of voice, and body language are all part of being assertive. Communicating with assertiveness also goes a long way towards gaining support and promoting a healthy workplace. Pay careful attention that you’re asserting and not dictating. The difference is in the delivery. You should be providing confidence, not orders.

#Pro tips:

– Consider the context in which you find yourself. How is assertive behaviour going to be interpreted?
– Assess how much assertiveness is acceptable in the environment and seek opinions and feedback from people you trust.
– Build relationships to ensure comfort during communication so that assertiveness is not viewed as the wrong use of authority or bullying.

Motivation and communication:

Sometimes all a team needs is a little encouragement. This doesn’t mean ad-hoc cheering and pep talks. It is important to understand your team and what their working styles and preferences are. Some team members like high energy motivation like being challenged, while some just need kind words. Sometimes the best way to motivate a team is to get knee-deep into the muck and work alongside them to overcome a pressing challenge.

Often, team members don’t feel motivated because the manager approaches motivation in a transactional fashion as opposed to a thought-provoking conversation. Remember, one has to feel motivated so they feel inspired to do things differently. And how one feels, is directly related to how you make them feel.

#Pro tips:

A pertinent question to ask yourself and your team members is – What kind of motivation does a team member need?
Offer opportunities for personal growth based on what they perceive as growth and opportunity, not necessarily what you feel
Don’t punish failure
Be a coach and a guide by sharing your past successes and failures as a learning.

Teaching and communication:

The best managers are also great teachers. Most managers fall back on more traditional employee management and development practices, such as giving formal reviews, making professional introductions, advising on career plans, acting as sounding boards, and helping to navigate internal politics. Although some managers do occasionally engage in imparting a lesson or two, few give it much thought or make it a core part of their job.  A manager-team relationship that relies solely on output without any input from the manager is bound to be transactional and full of conflicts and mistrusts. Just like a great teacher, a manager must first teach, practice, mock test and then assess performance. With being a manager-teacher also comes discipline and respect both of which must be earned.

#Pro tips:

Managers must be ready to share their knowledge, invite questions, and reason out assumptions.
Lessons revolve around what’s happening in the business as well as what’s necessary to learn to become more effective.
Encourage self-learning, but not as a replacement to handholding, guiding and sharing your insights and experiences.

So, how do great managers do all this?

In a crisis, or urgent, time-sensitive situations, directing, and motivating work best. When there is no crisis and things are going smoothly, teaching and mentoring works well. But it’s always the right time to listen. The key is knowing which aspect of communication is most relevant in the given context. Most situations call for a blend of different aspects of communication. As a manager, you need to understand how to manage these different aspects of communication for your team to be successful and satisfied. Study the situation to see which method of communication will work best by listening and observing. As you know, your team is made up of unique individuals who all have their way of communicating. Your role as a manager is to navigate these differences so that you can take make the most of your employee’s competencies. If you’re unsure, ask your employees what they need and how you can best help them.

When you use the right form of communication, you make the biggest impact. The most important thing is to keep in mind, communication is not a tool, it is a skill. And it takes time and a lot of practice to master any skill.

At Yellow Spark, we excel in helping companies develop leadership communication. You can write to us at contact@yellowspark.in for a personalized training module specifically designed to suit your managers and business.

Author Profi.e: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.