Big, showy displays of leadership don’t solve problems any more than ostentatious displays of love make for happy relationships. Those enormous bouquets of flowers that you see on Valentine’s Day will wilt before you know it. Instead of an expensive candlelit dinner at a restaurant, spending the equivalent amount of money on bulk groceries for home-cooked meals does more to show commitment. Similarly, the most effective interventions to make your workplace more productive are not the priciest ones or the most visible. A little bit of communication training for leaders can pay dividends in terms of productivity and employee satisfaction and retention.
Communication Training for Leaders Is More Than Just a Photo Opportunity
Some leaders mistakenly think that conspicuous consumption is an appropriate proxy for leadership. If you show up in the fanciest car or the fanciest suit, you must be the boss. Likewise, some bosses mistakenly think that bossing people around makes them effective leaders. You might think that posing for pictures with your employees at destination corporate retreats or elegant banquets in downtown restaurants shows your magnanimity, but you would be wrong. Your emails to employees and your responses to emails count more than the big gestures do. If you feel like, no matter what you do, your employees don’t listen, the problem might be a lack of communication. Effective communication training for leaders could fix that.
When Leaders Communicate Well, Everyone Communicates Well
Communication training for leaders focuses on the following skills that many leaders lack, despite being successful in other areas of business:
• Saying as much as possible in as few words as possible
• Communicating expectations clearly without micromanaging
• Being responsive to employees’ concerns
• Listening as much as you speak
• Tailoring your communication to your audience
These skills take practice, even for people with an innate talent for sales, financial management, or organizational planning. It pays to have knowledgeable people mentor you as you develop leadership communication skills.
Do Not Assume That Employees on Your Team Can Read Your Mind
Sometimes communication problems in the workplace can result from managers keeping important thoughts to themselves that they should share with employees on their team. If you gravitate toward a high responsibility management style, you may make detailed to-do lists for yourself in your mind. You spend your day trying to get through your tasks, without wasting a moment. When you are in a managerial role, however, unexpected responsibilities are a normal part of your workday. Team members ask you for help and decisions, because it is your job to provide these. You can quickly get so overwhelmed that you give hasty answers without thinking them through. Even worse, the whole situation can lead to a negative feedback loop of stress within your team.
You can make the workplace less stressful for yourself and your employees if you are more transparent about your short-term and long-term plans. Write your enormous to-do list in a shared document so that all the members of your team can see it. What you do next depends on your management style and the dynamics of your team and your organization. For some managers, it is appropriate to delegate each task to an individual or small group from the outset. The problem with that approach is that it requires you to follow up with people constantly, which can feel like micromanagement.
If keeping track of everyone’s progress on their assignments would cause conflict instead of preventing it, you have another option. You can simply ask employees to cross items off of the to-do list as they complete them. You can even ask them to claim the task on the to-do list when they start it and cross it off when they finish it. If a task has been pending for a long time, then you will know that it is time to follow up with the employee or employees who claimed the task.
Think About What You Want to Say Before You Say It
One of the first things you learn in a writing class is to plan before you write. Likewise, in communication training for leaders, you will learn that it is important to plan what you want to communicate before you demand your employees’ attention. Many employees have worked for managers who run their mouths endlessly without thinking about what they want to say. It is an unpleasant experience for everyone, and it does not help anyone be productive.
Most of the time, email is a better way to communicate instructions than meetings. Employees can read the email in a distraction-free environment when they are not busy with other tasks. They can also reread the relevant parts of the email whenever they need to refer to them. If you are a slow typist or need to communicate while driving, you can send a voice memo instead of writing an email. Of course, if your written or dictated instructions are rambling and disorganized, it defeats the purpose.
Some people need to ramble in order to get their thoughts out. If this describes you, then you can write a disorganized, stream of consciousness draft of your instructions in a word processing document or an email to yourself. Then you can revise it and send the second draft to your team members by email or in a shared document. In either case, you will have taken up less of your employees’ time to convey your message.
Effective Workplace Communication Is Not Always About Work
Building a strong rapport with your team goes a long way toward preventing conflict and easily resolving conflicts that naturally arise. Getting to know your team members is a valuable investment, even if they work remotely. Everyone dreads corporate retreats and Zoom meetings dedicated entirely to icebreakers, but these are not the only way to get to know your coworkers.
Developing camaraderie in your workplace does not have to use up your billable hours or your budget. Some effective team building strategies cost very little. If you make small talk with coworkers in the elevator, you will reach your destination at exactly the same time as if you had remained silent. Even better, you send the message that you are a friendly and approachable manager and that you are a human being. A few minutes of shooting the breeze about sports, music, food, or your kids can improve the morale of your team as much as an expensive retreat or an awkward happy hour.
Workplace Morale Begins on the Taste Buds
Requiring your team to eat together is the worst kind of micromanagement, but you can’t go wrong with a no-strings-attached catered meal. Don’t have an agenda to talk about. Just put the food on the table and set up chairs. Even if people would rather take the food back to their desks and keep working to meet deadlines, they will at least stay and talk for a few minutes.
It is not the lunch conversation itself that will prevent conflict, but rather the way that you follow up on it in subsequent weeks. You might find out that Andrew is pescetarian, Bobby learned everything he knows about cooking from YouTube, and Carol never tried eggplant until her mother-in-law cooked it while she and her husband were engaged. The important thing is that the members of your team know more about each other than they did before. The next time you are in the elevator with Bobby, you can ask him if he ever spatchcocked a chicken or turkey and how it turned out. You will also know that this is not the line of small talk you should try with Andrew when you ride the elevator with him.
When it comes to workplace conflict, your team members will not approach you as a boss who dispenses punishment, blame, or rewards. Instead, they will take a problem-solving approach when they talk to you about difficulties they are facing at work. Likewise, by trying to get to know everyone on your team, you are sending the message that you do not play favorites.
It Is Not Too Late to Resolve Miscommunications in Your Organization
Some business owners and managers decide to pursue communication training for leaders only after communication problems in the workplace adversely affect the organization. For example, the company might be suffering from high employee turnover, and sought-after employees might be leaving. Revenues might be decreasing at your organization even if they are generally strong in your sector. Perhaps the problem is your communication skills.
The best solution to this problem is for you to participate in workshops, coaching sessions, or training courses to improve your leadership communication skills. Individual mentoring programs and group trainings can both be effective at helping leaders become better listeners so that they can get their message across tactfully and concisely. WorkPeace offers specialized leadership training programs for airlines, education, real estate, and other sectors. Conflict resolution and leadership communication courses are also available which are not specific to just one industry. Contact us today so that your organization can be on its way to better employee satisfaction and higher company-wide productivity.