Completing business objectives in the present stagnating economy presents considerable challenges to managers. The answer is a clear game plan that includes consistent, frequent and open dialogue.
Identifying barriers to communication
I’ve heard the following platitudes from managers who denigrate communications. Typically, these managers are also sidestepping other job responsibilities as well:
· Excuse No. 1: It’s not my job.
· Excuse No. 2: Employees just need to do what I tell them to do.
· Excuse No. 3: Even though I’m moving at mach speed and I’ve chosen to ignore your emails and voicemails, it’s your fault you didn’t get my attention until the situation is almost unrecoverable.
First, if manager is in your title, then communicating is your job. How often you communicate with your team and whether your key messages are consistent and logical to your direct reports have a dramatic impact on employee engagement. In a 2011 Buck Consultant survey, poor leadership and individual supervisors were top reasons cited for a decrease in employee engagement, 48 percent and 41 percent respectively. Corporate America needs managers who understand the concept of two-way communications and who practice and execute this consistently.
Second, a common management mantra today is that employees just need to do what the manager tells them to do. Adopting this strategy is certainly easier and less time-consuming. But if employees never see the “big picture,” then they’ll never understand how their work contributes to the greater mission or goal of the team | project | department | organization.
Corporate America needs managers who understand – and value – the concept of individual communication. What issues or projects do your direct reports want discussed openly? And what information do they need to be more effective in their jobs? I posit that many managers could actually build and head innovative teams if they regularly allowed direct reports to brain storm solutions.
Third, managers today say they’ve established an open-door policy for employees to address issues, but the key to an open-door policy is whether the manager actively listens. Active listening means that you hear the message vs. framing your response. Consider this: If an employee delivers negative news, what is the manager’s first response? Is the game plan to point fingers and blame the employee for [fill in the blank here]? Not hearing a direct report is a sure-fire way to lose top talent. And blaming that direct report for a manager’s listening deficit communicates clearly to an employee his or her value – or lack thereof.
Corporate America today needs managers who take the time to develop active listening skills and who understand that their response to a direct employee should not be blame. Not all projects go right all the time. How a manager communicates in those unfortunate moments can either build a team or disintegrate an employee.
Other communication barriers exist today for corporate managers. In your experience, what are these, and what solutions have managers successfully implemented in your organization?