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Coaches Corner

Communications 101 for Managers

by SharĂ­ Alexander

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Recently Harvard Business Publications confirmed what many of us have always known: effective communication is the number one skill for executives to develop. So why is this skill so neglected when it comes to employee development? Companies send their managers and executives to all types of “continuing education” programs. Anything from enhancing organizational skills, learning new software, to various certifications. And yet, communication development goes highly overlooked.

Managers and executives need to be acutely aware of their communications within the organization. A Gallup poll of more than 1 million U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is because of problems with their immediate supervisor. Also, surveys show that over 80% of problems people encounter at work are related to a breakdown in communication. Communication training seems to be increasingly more important for any company.

So how can managers and executive improve their interpersonal communications with their employees? Here are 5 easy steps that can be taken:

1. Prepare before you speak: Don’t call a meeting if you don’t know what you’re going to say! You probably have to call in your employees fairly often to be updated on a project, give them a review of their performance (good or bad), or give them ideas on improving performance. It is not sufficient to have a general idea of what you want to say. You should prepare for any employee meeting with written bullet points of the topics you want to bring up and the general structure you want to follow.  For example:
  • Give overview of current project
  • Highlight accomplishments
  • Talk about specific problems
  • Ask how problems could be avoided in the future
  • Share my expectations
  • Ask for feedback
  • Decide on next action steps
This is a very general outline. I would suggest that you expand on points like “highlight accomplishments” in your notes with specific points you want to bring up.

This simple preparation technique ensures that the meeting will follow a structure and help you avoid getting on any tangents that are not productive. Also, it prevents you from ending the meeting and realizing you forgot to bring up two other topics.

2. Offer your employees time to prepare:  It is only fair that you allow your employees some time to prepare for the meeting too by giving them a heads-up on what the meeting will be about. Communication is a two-way process. When an employee isn’t given time to prepare, they are left hearing your thoughts and unable to provide sufficient input that might be necessary. When you call a meeting without giving them time to collect their thoughts on the subject, you are setting yourself up for 2 big problems.
  • You are being unfair to the employee, which will affect their workplace satisfaction and morale. After all, no one likes to be blind-sighted by their boss. And if this happens too often, your employee will continue to be discouraged and frustrated, which can lead to their resignation.
  • You are causing productivity problems. You will not be getting all the input you may require because the employee was unable to walk into the meeting prepared with all the necessary information. Therefore, you and your employee will likely be discussing the same topic in the near future because you will be playing catch-up on all the information that wasn’t discussed in the initial meeting. This is time that could be spent on other projects
3. Recap: After the meeting it is always a good idea to send a follow up email with the bullet points from the meeting. This will help both of you remember what was discussed. Also, this will help avoid any breakdown in communication. The employee will easily be able to respond to the e-mail with anything you might have left out, or to clarify on any of the bullet points. This simple step will ensure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Rally the troops: There’s nothing wrong with holding a meeting to motivate your team and improve morale. Every once in a while you’ll need to re-inspire your team. Remind them of the important work they are doing. Share how each of them is an essential member to achieving goals. This type of meeting can be casual, formal, or even like a pep-rally. It might be nice to mix it up a bit. Either way, as a manager it is your job to rally the troops.

Sometimes managers avoid holding group meetings like this, for whatever reasons. When you take advantage of motivating your team, there is one cardinal rule you must remember. It’s about them, not you. This is your opportunity to remind them of “what’s in it for them”. This is not the time for you the tell them about all the stress you have and how much it would help you out if they all got in gear. They don’t care about your problems, they have their own. That is why you need to remind them of how accomplishing goals will benefit them. You may have to take some time to brainstorm about what those benefits would be, but before you walk into the meeting, you need to know what those benefits are.

When you hold a meting like this, you are continuing to establish yourself as the leader. Your team will respect you for standing up and motivate them again.

5. Bring in outside resources: It is always a great idea to find an expert to train either yourself or your management team. To avoid turnover and communications breakdowns, a qualified coach or consultant will be able to identify where thing might be going wrong and provide easy to implement tips and techniques. You’ll want to find someone who is skilled at training groups and is able to provide effective personal coaching. You’ll be amazed at what a knowledgeable business presentation/corporate communications consultant can do for your team.

About the Author:
Sharí Alexander is a business presentation strategist who helps professionals get what they want every time they speak. As the owner of Presenting Matters, she works with executives, international speakers, along with other organizations and individuals that want results-driven business presentations. She is available for keynotes, seminars, coaching, and consulting. For more information, please visit or call (918) 346-8506.

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