How to communicate effectively in management
Communication in the workplace is key. In many organisations one of the most common gripes is, 'The communication around here is useless.' The fact is that for communication to be effective there are only two requisites, the message and the method of giving that message. Additionally, two core skills need to be worked on, namely, questioning and listening. All managers would benefit from adopting a more conscious approach to communication.
It might seem obvious but the most important thing in communication is clarity of message. It is a bit like if you don't get what you want for your birthday, it is probably because you haven't told anybody what you want. Dropping hints ends in the wrong result. If you want a new watch, say you want a new watch.
So it is at work. Management by telepathy simply doesn't work. If you want six boxes moving to the basement, say so. This is not about being aggressive; it is about enabling someone to do the job required.
There are two components to this clarity of communication - what and how? The first is stating what needs to be done - moving boxes to the basement. The second is defining how to do it - for example, taking the larger ones first for ease of stacking.
Managers need to think carefully about what they want and the best way to do it.
Method of Communication
There are a number of common means of communicating at work. These include telephone, email, face to face, fax (becoming less common), briefings and meetings
, written correspondence
, documents (reports etc).
Each of these has both positive and negative sides to them. Sometimes, a phone call is more effective than an email and at other times the reverse is true. Conscious decisions need to be made about which method is right for each situation.
Email is without doubt the most often used form of communication these days. It is quick, convenient, and cheap. That being the case, it is also overused. Email overload! Clearly, it is excellent for overcoming geographical distance and even more so when different time zones are involved. Similarly, it is perfect for sending standard documents - attach and click. Sometimes, we do need a trail that we can refer to, and so on. But do we really need to email somebody who sits at the next desk?
Beware also the main pitfall with emails. Be careful how you write them, as the tone can be misinterpreted by the receiver. Also, when sending an email, you are now at the behest of the receiver. How often do they view their mailbox? If that is daily, you may not get a response until the following day. For more urgent matters a phone call may well be more appropriate.
The telephone is probably the second most used method of communication. It has the capacity to be immediate. Things can be resolved there and then. It can also be frustrating when the person you want to talk to is not available and you are not there when they ring back. Where possible, it is always a good idea to schedule phone calls, particularly the important ones. This enables both parties to be prepared for the dialogue.
Face to face and written communication are the most time-consuming and costly. They should always be the option, however, for the most important communication. In the case of the former, the personal touch is essential for some issues. In the latter case, it is vital on occasions that there is a written record.
These are just some of the considerations when determining which method is best for which message. It is the marriage of the two that brings about clear and effective communication.
Asking questions is something that does not come naturally to many people. Most people are natural statement makers as opposed to question askers. Questions, however, are a powerful tool. Questions cause people to think. By asking a question you engage the other party. Statements can simply pass people by if they so choose.
Broadly speaking, questions fall into two categories - open and closed. Open questions are designed to gain a broad range of response. An example would be, 'How do you see the new system being of use?' Closed questions, on the other hand, are to gain specific information, such as, 'How many days has David had off sick this year?'
The type of question you use needs to be carefully thought about. The trick is to know what questions you want to ask before having the dialogue. When in doubt never be afraid to ask a question to clarify something. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
Communication - Listening
As with questions, listening is not necessarily a natural skill. We need to engage in active listening, and to this end, there are three approaches. The first is indeed questioning. If we ask a question, we are more likely to listen to the response than when we are merely engaged in a statement exchange.
The second is taking notes. Most people do not do this in enough situations and rely on their memory of events, a recipe for error. Have a pad next to the telephone for example and jot down key phrases.
The third is called echoing. This is where you always try and use a key word or phrase from what has been said to you in your response to the other party.
Effective Communication Summary
So above all else, remember that communication is vital and it needs to be constantly worked at. Be conscious of what you communicate and how it is done. A failure in communication will result in a failure of performance.