Effective communication for managers – tips to communicate effectively

Why do some managers get compliance as soon as they ask the question? Why do some supervisors find they have to repeat themselves constantly? Why do some people get the point straight away and others need to be repeatedly reminded?  This article offers 4 ways to successfully communicate your message – effective communication for managers.
“The effectiveness of communication is not defined by the communication, but by the response.” – Milton Erickson (American Pyschologist)

Communication is only as good as the words chosen to get the message across. The more precise and specific the content, the more effective the communication. To be efficient, a manager has to communicate in a way that speaks directly to the employee. Too many words or generic ideas and the result will be confusion or apathy.
The better the choice of words and the clearer the direction, the more the communication becomes effective.  Our guide to effective communication breaks this into 4 simple tricks;
1) Focus on one idea at a time
2) Learn to listen
3) The personal touch
4) Always be positive

Focus on one idea at a time | Effective communication

Managers in Health and Safety meetings are renowned for getting this wrong. Safety meetings can easily become a mixture of elongated presentations, too many “new” ideas and too many people being offered the opportunity to speak.
At the centre of any Health and Safety meeting there is a core message you need to get across.  The more powerpoint slides, presentation notes and individual speakers you use in a single meeting the more you end up competing with that core message.
People have a limited attention span, especially when it comes to rules and regulations.  Just because health and safety is important doesn’t mean the meeting should be lengthy.  The more information that is levelled at the group the more it is likely to confuse the attendees.
Keep any Health and Safety meeting on point.  Focus on action points and their drivers. Make the meeting shorter by being more specific.  You don’t need to explain the legislation relating to the new rule, just a brief explanation of why it is in important and how the organisation expects it to be applied.
In advance of any meeting, work backwards from the point you are trying to make and decide what outcomes you’d like to see in the workplace.  Establish feasible actions you want your staff to do differently as a result of the meeting.  Focus your energy on the desired outcome and you are more likely to create bullit points that staff can understand in order to get there.
Keep the meeting short.  If there are a number of new instructions to cover, consider arranging multiple meetings across a set timescale.  People are more likely to remember any changes if they are told in short bursts.  Employees may get frustrated with long drawn out presentations.  No-one ever complains about a short Health and Safety meeting.

Learn to listen | Effective communication

Being a good listener is one of the signs of a good communicator. No one likes communicating with someone who only cares about having their say and does not take the time to listen to the other person. If you are not a good listener, it will be hard to comprehend what you are being asked to do.
A practical approach a manager can take to improve their listening skills is to learn active listening techniques.  These techniques include:

  • Building trust and establishing rapport. Ask the individual what you can do to help or compliment them on something they have done or how they look.
  • Demonstrating concern. Show that you are interested in how they feel by demonstrating empathy with their current situation.
  • Paraphrasing to show understanding. Stating things like “So what you are saying is,” or “If I’m right in understanding you, I think you mean” – followed by a variation of the other persons original statement.
  • Nonverbal cues which show understanding such as nodding, eye contact and leaning forward.  Watch interviewers on TV, they regularly use nonverbal cues to encourage further dialogue.
  • Brief verbal affirmations like “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” “I understand,” or “Thank you.”
  • Asking open-ended questions. Use this with a demonstration of concern such as “I understand that the changes to the work rota is difficult for you, what would you like us to try and do instead?”
  • Asking specific questions to seek clarification. Ask questions that are direct and require confirmation of a definitive answer. “What parts of that report do you need to complete?” or “How long do you expect the meeting to last?”
  • Waiting to disclose your opinion. “Tell me more about proposal to cut down on delivery times.”
  • Disclosing similar experiences to show understanding. “I had a similar experience last time I dealt with that client. It was very difficult and I wasn’t sure what to do – do you want me to show you what my supervisor taught me?”

Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying, rephrasing what the person says and asking clarifying questions,  to ensure greater understanding (“Ok, so what you are saying is…”).

Through active listening, you can better understand what the other person is trying to say, and can respond appropriately.

The personal touch | Effective communication

Don’t automatically assume everyone needs constant reminders when Health and Safety standards drop.  Unless everyone on site is ignoring instructions address performance issues with smaller groups rather than the whole work force.  Don’t punish everyone for the actions of a few.  If you make 50 people sit through an H&S meeting that is supposed to fix the actions of five or six your communication is no longer personal.
Individuals respond well to praise.  If an employee adheres to the new Health and Safety policy take time out to mention that it has been noticed.  They are more likely to continue the practice if they are encouraged. Focus on one to one dialogue. Employees will be responsive when feedback is directed at them rather than a group.  Think staff appraisals.
Where policy is being ignored approach the individual and ask if they understand the implications of any short-cuts they may be taking.  If it is apparent that a number of others are doing this also, plan a meeting just with those staff members with the issue as the core point.    There is no point re-iteriting the point to the whole workforce, it is a waste of time and resources. Make your communication more effective. Engage your staff at a personal level one-to-one or in small groups; not as thinly disguised reprimand sessions.

Always be positive | Effective communication

Every employee regardless of level has a desire to be admired in some small way. Every employee has skills or qualities that enables them to do their job, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.  No talent is required to criticise someone else’s performance, no skill to pick out faults. Yet it takes effort to find something positive about that same person.  Especially when you know that the employee you are about to speak to has been doing something wrong.
So how does being positive help?  Take a step back and look at things from the employees perspective.  No one likes to be dressed down or embarrassed for the work they do or mistakes they make.  People don’t tend to turn up to work with a smile on their face knowing that they are about to have their faults brought to the attention of others. So work with them. Be positive.
When they are successful, and the work deserves praise, praise them.  Take time to look at their individual wins and find a way to compliment them. If you make them feel valued, they are more likely to work with you when things go wrong.  This allows you to offer constructive criticism at a later date without making them feel inadequate.  It might be difficult but as a manager it is your job to bring out the best in your employees.  Always remember that.
Effective communication prevents having to needlessly repeat yourself. Effective communication also improves understanding between work colleagues and ultimately brings results.
TutorCare offers an online course for improving communication skills. It explains different aspects of effective communication and places emphasis on effective listening.  Further training regardless of experience will help provide techniques that learners can apply to both work and real world scenarios.
Further reading:
Supervision and staff appraisals
Staff appraisal skills e-learning