Communications?!? But… We Fixed That!

Here’s a great story about manager communications from one of our trainers.

I was working with a senior corporate leadership team, and they wanted to improve employee engagement and outcomes.  A recent employee survey indicated that manager-employee communication and feedback was a key shortcoming and challenge for the organization.

“I can’t believe this!” the CEO said in an exasperated tone. “We covered this, two years ago! Remember, we talked about it during our strategic offsite!  Why is this still a problem?” All the managers appeared to agree – why was this an issue, when the group had discussed it so deeply, at such senior levels?

Communications, it turns out, is an ongoing project – and you are never done.  Another consultant has shared, “I have never worked with an organization where communication was NOT listed as one of the top three issues by employees.”

So, what should you do? Here are some examples for developing manager-employee communications skills in your organization:

  • Reward and measure feedback and communications. Evaluate managers on whether and how they develop employees using feedback, and give them the tools to do it well.
  • Define and repeat key messages in different ways. Stating a goal in a brochure or at one company-wide event is not enough – tell stories, talk about the goal in different ways, give examples when it is done well. Active communication skills are a must.
  • Calibrate communicate and culture. If managers are communicating a shared message, but are then behaving in a way that doesn’t match the message, then the message has been lost. Actions speak louder than words. If you see this kind of disconnect, gently provide the feedback in a way that helps the person see the contradiction without getting defensive.

Given how often people find communication a frustration, why bother trying? Because humans are social beings, and communication is the way we connect. It will never be perfect, it will never be complete. It is the journey and the effort that make all the difference.