Every leader has room for improvement in the way they communicate with both their superiors and employees. The fast-paced workplace environment and immediate but impersonal nature of electronic communication has diminished many leaders’ ability to effectively convey their message, gain valuable feedback, and lead their organization. Surveys often show employees are concerned with the quality of communications in the workplace. Many feel companies give lip service and are not sincere in the messages they communicate. Others feel the only way information is imparted is through memos on bulletin boards. Still others feel instructions or policies are vague and difficult to interpret and follow. This is important to recognize because ineffective communication begets poor cooperation and internal coordination, decreased productivity, and increased tension, absenteeism, and turnover. Voids in communication are then filled with extremely damaging gossip and rumors. These repercussions seriously undermine a leader’s efforts to facilitate change within their organization, a crucial ability in today’s business climate. The following is a list of proven concepts and techniques leaders can use to improve communications with both superiors and employees.
1. It’s a two-way process
Leaders should understand that communication does not end when they are finished delivering their message. Whether with superiors or employees, it is a two-way process that involves both giving information and receiving feedback. It is an ongoing exchange as questions are answered, additional information is given, and further feedback and input solicited.
2. Emphasize personal communications
The convenience of voice and email has made impersonal communications a reality for many leaders. Rather than rely on these electronic media as well as bulletin boards, memos, and other like methods of communication, leaders should rely on personal exchanges and stress face-to-face meetings where possible. This helps eliminate miscommunication as leaders can readily interpret nonverbal facial expressions and body language.
3. Be specific
Vague statements or instructions cause most miscommunication by failing to clearly and concisely direct or inform employees/superiors. Since vagueness is open to a variety of interpretations, confusion quickly sets in. Every time a leader conveys a message or gives an instruction, they must ask if what they are communicating is clear, concise, and specific. If not, they must restructure the communication so that it is.
4. Information is … a service
“Information is power” is a widely used phrase. The problem is, instead of sharing information, many managers and leaders hoard it as a method of wielding power over others. Leaders should view the delivery and availability of information as a service to both their superiors and employees that enables them to be more productive and make better-informed decisions. It is in this service sense that information should be considered powerful.
5. Show respect
Effective and open communication demands that all parties respect one another. This means that leaders, superiors, and employees demonstrate respect for what each other has to say. They ask questions to show interest and further clarify key points. When this is done, all will feel an important part of a team and tend to be both more dedicated and productive.
6. An open-door policy
Leaders don’t give lip service to an open-door policy, they practice it. They take the time to be among and interact with their employees. They keep their finger on the pulse of the organization by openly discussing needs and problems and allowing employees to disagree and contribute new ideas and insights. This practice demonstrates a sincere concern for employees — and builds an endearing sense of loyalty. The impact it can have on a leader’s organization cannot be overemphasized. Actively and continually showing care and concern dramatically increases productivity and personal dedication.
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