Good communication is the key to EVERYTHING! Yet I don’t know a single person who goes around saying “Wow I am an awesome communicator!” So it must mean we all have room for improvement. Whether it is sharing your vision for your department, setting behavioral expectations, getting employee buy in for improvement initiatives or setting and executing on strategy…excellent communication is a must. And if I had to suggest one area every leader should improve on …it is communication. Communication is the key to building strong, productive relationships between managers and employees. It is also widely recognized that communication breakdowns are often difficult to identify and repair. So, if you are struggling with the kind of communication effectiveness that bolsters retention and promotes employee satisfaction, let us help you here with a few strategies to help you improve and also prevent the communication breakdowns in any meeting you conduct.
Create a culture of open communication. Communication is a two-way street. Promote an environment where employees can be honest with their opinions in any setting, free with their feedback and unafraid of negative repercussions. Problems are openly discussed, and decisions are explained so that no employee feels left in the dark. Employees want to feel a part of the organization they work for and that is accomplished through open communication.
Be inspiring. Wow your employees. If information is truly important for them to hear, make it worth their while to pay attention. Don’t bore them with a monotone delivery. Speak with enthusiasm, if you want them to be interested in the message, you yourself must be interested in it too. Your staff members want to be inspired by you, every employee wants to work for an inspiring leader. The explorer Robert Ballard who discovered the Titanic in 1985 says “Your mission in any presentation is to inform, educate, and inspire”.
Communicate clearly and concisely. Develop an outline and share it with the attendees prior to any meeting, whether one on one or in a group setting. Organizing your ideas into an outline will improve the quality of your meeting and help you create a coherent message that is easily understood by all. People need structure in order to follow along with you. Make it easy for them to listen and stay engaged.
Recognize your non-verbal communication. You often hear people say, “It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it.” It’s about the way in which your messages are delivered. Think: tone, speed, attitude, facial expression, gestures. Be aware of your body language; make sure it is consistent with your vocal message. Your attitude is displayed through your actions and in a meeting, people tend to mirror the speakers attitude. If you come across as bored or aggressive well then that may be what you get in return.
Learn to listen. Communication goes both ways, and one of the most effective means for a manager to show that he or she understands the team’s challenges is by listening to their issues. Listening is a valuable way to strengthen your leadership skills, engage employees, foster team loyalty and show the employees that they are important. I always get a thank you from the teams I interview and they say it is “just for listening to us”. Your employees want to feel heard.
Teach them something new. Just be careful! Facts and figures are important but are truly tough to pay attention to and follow along with. Whenever possible, use pictures over text and numbers in your meetings. People are much more likely to recall your point and your idea when a picture complements it. The human brain loves novelty. An unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected element in your presentation jolts your employees out of their preconceived notions about what you are going to say and prevents them from zoning out.
And always find some time for the positive stuff.