Managers Who Don’t Value Communication Don’t Understand People.
By Thomas J. Roach
Everyone in the workforce makes or can make contributions in four areas. No matter where someone is on the organization chart, they provide or can provide:
In an ideal work environment there is low turnover and minimal sick days. The employees make wise decisions to best meet the needs of their internal and external customers. They are self-motivated and do whatever it takes to complete their objectives. Lastly, they contribute their labor, effective decision-making, motivation and full effort all the time – making company products and services consistent and reliable.
Some businesses have the opposite of this ideal scenario. They experience high turnover, excessive sick days and lateness. Employees make poor decisions or no decisions at all. They are unmotivated and the quality of their work is inconsistent.
The difference between the ideal scenario and the opposite scenario is not that one company has good employees and the other company has bad employees. The difference is in the work environment.
People are not machines who listen for orders and tirelessly carry them out. Employees that come to work every day and remain loyal to their organizations for years do so because they like their jobs.
Employees who make good decisions do so because they are well informed of corporate objectives and expectations. They work hard because their efforts are appreciated. And they provide consistency and reliability for their customers because the company is consistent and reliable in the way it treats them.
What every manager should understand about people is that they only take orders from one person – themselves. Telling people what to do isn’t enough. Mangers need to be facilitators and mentors. They need to create an atmosphere where employees want to work, and that requires an open, flexible, feedback-based communication culture.
The skills needed for real leadership are communication skills. It takes years of experience to develop good communication habits. No one becomes a good communicator overnight, but here are some useful suggestions:
- Constantly look for feedback. Ask your employees how they feel about things like their assignments and their workspace. Sometimes people hate coming to work because of issues that would be simple and inexpensive to fix.
- Keep everyone informed. Good decision-making requires relevant information and a clear hierarchy of objectives. In casual conversations and in meetings try to share everything you know about work issues. The question to ask yourself is not should I pass this formation on; it is why shouldn’t I pass this information on.
- Provide sincere reward and recognition. When people perform well or make an exceptional effort, acknowledge it publicly.
- Treat your employees the way you would like to be treated and the way you want them to treat their coworkers and your customers.
- Patience, empathy, and kindness are contagious. Go to work every day and contaminate as many people as possible.
Good communication is not achieved by memorizing and repeating insincere comments. Speaking and listening are skills that develop through repetition. Setting communication goals might be a good way to start. Spend five minutes talking to a different employee every day. Look for opportunities to recognize exceptional effort. Keep notes of information that you can share. Ask someone for feedback every week.
Communication skills can’t solve every problem. Some employees may be incorrigible, and some environments may be dysfunctional because of established rules or senior leadership that you have no control over. It is, however, incumbent on everyone who accepts a management position to make this effort.
Thomas J. Roach, Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Calumet since 1987, and is the author of “An Interviewing Rhetoric.” He can be reached at [email protected]