#313 from Innovative Leader Volume 6, Number 12          December 1997

Ten Tips to Cultivate Communication
by Jane Flaherty

Ms. Flaherty is a senior consultant with PBS & Associates, Inc., a San Diego based consulting firm specializing in leadership development, organizational assessments, and management consulting (phone 619-451-3601).

The following ten tips will help increase your effectiveness when communicating with employees.  You will find these tips to be simple. But, our experience tells us that when managers use these techniques, employees notice not only better communication with their boss, but greater morale in their department.

1.   Overcommunicate

     Increase the frequency of your communication, particularly during periods of rapid organizational change. Tell your employees what you know, even if you preface it with "Based on what I know today...but it could change tomorrow." Telling employees what you know, even if it may be subject to change, helps build trust. On the other hand, withholding information erodes trust levels between management and employees.

2.   Keep Your Door Open

     Whenever possible, keep your office door open. In addition, make sure your body language also tells employees that you have an "open door policy." Crossing your arms, sighing over interruptions, and not looking at the speaker all say that you may be accessible, but not approachable.

3.   Review Schedules

     Keep your employees updated on your schedule. Knowing your schedule will help them prioritize their work and allow them to make better decisions relevant to supporting you.  Knowing their schedules will help you understand their current pressures.

4.   Offer Assistance

On a regular basis, ask your employees, "What do you need from me?" Doing so gives employees the opportunity to update you on projects. It also prompts you to provide the information needed to keep those projects on schedule.

5.   Call In Frequently

     If you are away from the office, touch base with your support team on a regular basis. Doing so allows you to respond quickly to messages and troubleshoot potential issues that may have surfaced in your absence. It also says to your employees, indirectly, "I care enough to check in with you when I'm gone."

6.   Hold Regular Meetings

     Keep employees informed about management decisions, goals, and direction. Allow
employees time to question issues that impact them. Have employees update one another on the status of their projects. Scheduling short, well-planned departmental meetings on an ongoing basis will not only keep employees informed, but boost team effectiveness.  

7.   Keep Personalized Files

     Keep an anecdotal file for each employee. Doing so will help you stay informed and current about that particular employee. A simple note saying "Janice said that she plans on taking a computer course in the fall" will not only help you remember the fact, but impress Janice when you bring the point up in a later conversation.

8.   Conduct Quarterly Reviews

     Want to make annual reviews less dreaded for both manager and employee? Conduct quarterly reviews. Doing so allows the employee time throughout the year to address
performance issues. Meeting with an employee on a quarterly basis also conveys to an
employee, "Your success is important to me."

9.   Tackle Tough Issues

     Conflict is alive and well in most organizations. What differs from organization to organization is the way conflict is handled. Healthy organizations address conflict. We recently ran across the term "carefrontation." It takes courage and guts to honestly communicate the real issues to people. When you do not honestly discuss but instead sidestep the tough issues, employees may feel that you do not care. If you do care, you will confront people with compassion. When you honestly communicate, even the tough issues, people trust you because they know you really value them.

10.  Commit to Communicating

     Communication is an art, not a science. You can easily learn principles related to communication, but to become a master, you must practice. Monet was not a great artist the first time he put brush to canvas. It took years of practice! With practice and commitment to effectively communicating with employees, you will eventually become known as a "great boss!"

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