By Ken Butler
Who hasn’t heard it before? – “They just don’t listen to what I’m saying!”
Perhaps that’s true, but perhaps the fault isn’t entirely with the listener. Communication in the workplace, and more specifically between managers and employees, has the potential to make or break a company. Oftentimes an executive will hire an amazing person. They have an incredible track record, the right culture fit and soft skills, and they consistently perform well under pressure. Just because they are great doesn’t mean they are the same as that executive – in fact, they are often quite different, which can cause a communication breakdown. We work with clients on this all the time and employ a few techniques that help fix that breakdown.
Know who you are and who your people are
We utilize the TriMetrix assessment to understand behaviors, motivators, and personal skills – from this, we get a clear picture of a person’s communication style. A communication style is not just the way we communicate to others, it’s how we like others to communicate with us. That second part is what often gets overlooked.
Put on your listening cap
Once you know your own communication style and the style of the other person, it’s time to put on your listening cap. Yes – just like in grade school. Listening isn’t just nodding and smiling. True listening requires setting aside your personal opinion. People can sense this in a good listener and will open up more. This allows you to understand the problem better and offer more qualified advice or direction.
Allow people to be right
This is a tough one for most managers but it can be the most useful tool if done correctly. This doesn’t mean allowing your employees to run the company. Here’s how this works in a practical sense. When someone comes to you with an idea – accept it. Thank them for it. Then if it’s something you aren’t ready to put your weight behind, ask them to flesh it out and present some action steps to accomplish the idea. If the idea wasn’t great they will probably end up leaving it alone anyways. If it is a great idea, then you have just empowered them to add value to the rest of the organization. It’s really a win-win and all you have to do is be open to hearing and supporting other people’s ideas.
Be clear and be brief
Don’t repeat yourself over and over when trying to give your team direction. It’s condescending and wastes time. Instead, before setting them on a course, plan your communication strategy and stick to it. Pontificating on the details will leave people confused and out of focus. Stick to the the crystal clear direction they need and allow them to come back to you with clarifying questions when needed.
To sum it up, first you need to know your communication style and the style of each team member. Don’t assume they all like to be spoken to in the way that you do. Take an assessment to look at this in more depth. Next – listen and put aside your personal opinion if you want to get to the heart of the matter. Then allow them to be right, but empower them to work out the details. When communicating “top down” strategies, be clear and be brief.