If you're a leader or manager in any organization today, it's no surprise to you that managers spend an estimated 80 percent of their time communicating. From endless conference calls, to an infinite supply of new e-mails, to the eternal stream of visitors asking, "Do you have a minute?" you might wonder how you can find time for anything but communicating. But have you thought about what percentage of your time you spend working to improve the way you communicate? If not, you should. Clear, consistent, transparent employee communication is linked to improved engagement, productivity and profitability—while poor communication has been estimated to cost organizations a stunning $26,000 per employee.
Feel that you have room for improvement when it comes to your communications skills and style? You're in luck: Communication is a set of skills, behaviors and habits that can be learned and improved over time.
To get you started, here are five tips on how you can raise your communications quotient as a manager.
1. Plan to succeed. You probably know the saying, "Plan the work. Work the plan." The same is true when it comes to communicating with your people, whether your audience is a single direct report or thousands of employees around the world. Plan ahead what your key messages will be, and how you can deliver them most effectively to your specific audience.
Communicating as a leader requires empathy—put yourself in the shoes of the people you'll be talking to, e-mailing or addressing through your presentation or online forum. What are the primary concerns of that person or group? What questions will your audience have that you should address through your communication or follow-up materials? Proactively devoting time to these and other considerations will put you in a position to foster understanding and engagement among your audience, rather than resistance.
2. It's not just what you say—it's how you say it. Tone of voice, written tone, body language, choice of communication channel and timing all convey a message at least as powerful as the one your words do. Good communication doesn't happen by accident; everything about your message delivery should be intentional. Before you communicate, think through every aspect of your delivery to ensure that it reinforces—rather than detracts from—your intended message.
3. Don't just talk—listen, too. The word communication implies conversation—and that's two-way. Find ways to engage your audience, check for understanding of your message and solicit feedback. In a one-to-one or small-group conversation, keeping your audience engaged is a simple matter of giving the other party a chance to respond. However, when you're communicating to a broader audience, obtaining audience input and feedback takes a little more strategy. Will you include a feedback link in your all-employee e-mail? Conduct a survey or small focus groups? Use polling technology to capture real-time input during your town hall meeting? Having an effective feedback mechanism gives employees a way to make their voices heard and stay engaged.
4. Transparency is the best policy. Gone are the days of leader as master spin doctor—or they should be, anyway. With today's prevalence of social media and flatter organizations, employees often can see right through leaders' attempts to "spin" the truth with convoluted messages and complex terms. Your role as a leader is just the opposite—it's to help your people cut through the information clutter and understand what messages mean for them. While you can't always tell employees everything, tell them what you can in clear, simple, honest terms.
5. Take your communication for a test drive. Not sure how a certain message will land with your audience? Can't decide whether to deliver a message in person or through your portal? Don't be afraid to seek advice from someone with expertise in the communications process and who will give you honest advice and guidance.
Looking for a partner who can provide expert counsel and support to help you or leaders in your organization succeed as communicators? Tipton Communications has extensive experience working with managers and leaders in a range of industries to improve their communications effectiveness. To learn more, call 302.454.7901, or visit our website at www.TiptonCommunications.com.