Despite the fact that we can talk to one another, we don’t always do a good job of communicating. Talking at someone and communicating with them is not the same thing. Given how critical communication is to the success of any team, it’s important to master communication with your employees.
Although, if you’re like most people, you’ve probably had at least one boss that couldn’t hold a conversation to save their life. If you don’t want to be remembered as that leader who couldn’t talk to their employees, read on.
Learning to master communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it, how often you say it, how you listen, and how much you space you hold for the other person to engage with you. Mastering communication is about ensuring that your employees are seen and heard, but also that you get the results you want because you can clearly articulate what you want from them as well. It’s a two-way street, despite what social media might have you believe.
Here are 9 ways you can improve communication with employees.
1. Make Time for It
Just because you can talk to all your employees at any time online doesn’t mean you should. People still need to interact with one another, especially at the office.
It’s all too easy to send a quick chat message or an email to request information, but the more frequently you talk to your employees in person, the more engaged they will be and making this simple change could be a big step towards improving communication with employees.
2. Have a Plan
Whenever you ask someone for something, don’t half-ass it. Make sure you know exactly what you’re asking for and why.
Determine if this ask is necessary at this time or can it wait. Nobody likes it when you waste their time and with everyone so busy these days, make sure you are going to an employee with something that is going to move the company forward.
3. Welcome Walk-ins
If you want to master communication with your employees, you are going to have to actually talk to them. Sometimes, having forced meetings doesn’t bring out the best in communication efforts so allow your employees to knock on your door at any time.
Don’t let “open-door policy” be just a thing you say.
4. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Communication
What’s even more effective than a leader who has his or her communication skills locked down is a team that can communicate with one another.
If you want to be a rock star communicator and leader, make sure you facilitate conversations between your team members and make room for them to work with and talk to one another.
5. Ask Questions
You get a gold star every time you challenge your employees and ask them questions. Asking questions not only allows your employees to contribute their original ideas, but it means they feel heard.
You don’t have to do something with every idea that comes across your desk, but if you ask questions of your employees, you’re sure to receive some valuable responses.
6. Hold Space
No matter how fast the clock seems to be ticking, allow your employees to formulate their thoughts so they can articulate themselves properly. If they feel rushed, they might not be able to get to where you need them to be.
This is especially effective in problem-solving. Give people time to formulate and articulate their thoughts. And don’t interrupt.
7. Be Interested
When an employee is talking, let them finish. Don’t just think about what you are going to say in response to their remarks. You are welcome to take time when they are done to formulate your thoughts too.
This respectful exchange of information is what communication is really all about. It’s when we cut each other off or feel like nobody is listening to us that we get frustrated and things start to fall apart.
8. Apologize When You Are Wrong
As a leader, you are going to have to take a lot of flak for your team. But it also means that they are going to have to take a lot of flak from you. Which brings us to another key point on how to improve communication with employees: say you are sorry when you are wrong.
Even if nobody thought you were wrong, if you turn out to be wrong about something that impacts your team, apologize. This helps them feel trusting of your decisions and they realize you are right there with them in the thick of the work.
9. Include your Team in Planning and Problem Solving
Finally, if you want to master communication, you don’t have to do it alone. Bring your team along for the ride and get them involved in planning and problem-solving meetings so that you can tackle big problems together.
Because communication is a two-way street, there is no reason for you to walk that street alone hoping that your messages are being received. Travel along it together and find out where you can take your team in a frank, trusting, and open style of communication.
Communication can make or break a leader, especially a new leader. If you find yourself struggling to talk to your team, be honest with them about it. There’s no point in pretending you have good communication skills if you don’t. One of the early signs that you need to work on your communication skills is that your employees don’t understand your directions.
If work isn’t being completed properly or employees are saying that they aren’t sure what you mean with a directive, take the feedback and be sure to consider it strongly. Always ask your employees if they need clarification or any additional information and make sure you offer to help whenever you can to move their progress along.
As their leader, you need to take responsibility for yourself, but also for the work they produce. If you want to be a master of communication, you need to keep that feedback loop going strong and ensure that you are collecting, analyzing, and follow-up on the data you are collecting for your department.
Communication means sending and receiving messages. If you’re not getting messages from your team, it might be because they don’t feel comfortable talking to you. Look at the issues from all sides and consider how you can improve communication on both sides of the table, together.