A key skill in being a proficient manager is the ability to communicate details and vision to your workforce. Communication is an unconscious skill we were taught by our parents, friends, social environment and many other factors. Few people ever attend a class specifically designed to make them a better communicator. Hopefully the following information is helpful regarding your ability to communicate effectively.
Words are not precise.
People attach meanings to words and those meanings may vary drastically from your own interpretation. For example, I bet your 11-year-old son’s definition of doing a “good” job of cleaning his room varies greatly from your definition of doing a “good” job of cleaning his room. Using broad words without details can lead to miscommunication and frustration. “Do a good job,” “it won’t cost a lot,” “take better care of the equipment” are all ambiguous statements that require detail and clarification.
People mostly communicate by talking and listening.
Talking and listening are only one part of the communication process. Tone and body language also play a major role in communication. “Oh yeah” has two totally opposite meanings dependent on the tone in which it is said. Posture can send a crystal-clear message. People with crossed arms or a frown may be saying everything is OK by the words they utter but their body language is telling you something entirely different.
Honest communication is best.
Yeah, when donkeys fly. Try going around and telling everybody what you think of them and see how your day goes. Lying is not encouraged but tact may be in order. If your spouse asks if you think he or she is fat then saying “yes” may not be the best course of action.
Personality plays a role in communication.
We are all different, some folks are short, some tall. Some have brown hair, others no hair at all. Personalities are also varied. Some people are introverts and say little except when asked. Others are extroverts and have trouble being quiet. Adapting to the situation and getting out of your personality’s comfort zone is key to manager success. If you are an introvert there are times you need to speak up. If you are an extrovert, well, at times you need to shut up.
Avoid “why” questions.
Managers want to focus on the future and not be dragged into the past. People love to bitch and complain. It doesn’t matter about the past but rather where you go in the future. You cannot correct the past. Instead of “why” questions focus on what, when, how and where questions. “Why” questions can also have an accusatory ring to them and some people will immediately become defensive. Questions, like “why did you do that?” may make some people feel attacked, particularly if they have a negative parent or spouse.
For potentially negative conversations, consider postponing the discussion until each of you calm down.
It is easy to insult each other’s heritage in the heat of conflict and let things get out of control. Remember, the least emotional person usually wins. Remember, agreeing with someone’s emotions doesn’t mean you are saying the person is right or wrong. Something like, “I can understand why you might feel that way,” and then coming back to the issue at hand can be effective. Remember, it is their feelings and no matter how illogical those feelings are, in their own head it makes sense.
Not everyone hears the same way.
Suppose you tell someone to get a cutting torch and tank and he or she comes back with the tank and torch but the tank is empty. You ask, “why didn’t you check the tank?” and they say, “you didn’t tell me to.” You think “you idiot!” Hey, the guy did exactly what you asked him to do. I bet the same person does this to you over and over. Now who is the idiot? Some people have the ability to adapt and others don’t. Others will never deviate from direct orders because they are afraid of getting in trouble. Know your people and how to adapt your communication.
People tend to hear what they want to hear.
Be careful of sending dual messages without clear expectations and accountability. Telling your child you will buy he or she a bicycle if they do their homework each night tends to remember the new bicycle better than the homework stuff. If you tell an employee he or she will get a raise in six months if they perform better, you must include very clear and precise instructions on what perform better means.
Frame tasks to include their importance.
A janitor cleaning in a hospital can seem like a menial unappreciated task. However, when framed around the context of preventing infections that kill thousands each year, the task becomes very important. Picking up nails in the yard following a roofing job may seem unimportant until a nail is picked up by a lawnmower and puts someone’s eye out.
Communicating is a key managerial skill and not as easy as one might think. How much formal training have you had in communication? I bet not much.