When it comes to communication between a manager and their team, there is always room for improvement. Whether you’re a new manager or an aspiring leader, you must improve your communication skills to get your message heard and create a productive work environment where your team can thrive.
In this article, you’ll discover why communication is a critical skill for a manager and seventeen skills to improve communication at work.
The Role of Managers: How Their Behavior Affects Engagement
Why is it essential for managers to communicate well with their team?
Gallup defines a manager as “someone who is responsible for leading a team toward common objectives and engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.”
Managers build personal relationships with their team members and empower and motivate their people.
Here are some stats to understand the role of managers and how their behavior can affect employee engagement:
According to a research, 22% of employees strongly agreed the leadership of their organization had set a clear direction for the organization.
A 2015 study identified leader communication issues that irked employees. Check out the below chart:
The Gatehouse State of the Sector 2020 report found around 41% of internal communication respondents said manager’s poor communication skills were one of the top three barriers to internal communication success in their organization.
Only 14% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve.
Nearly 30% of employees believe their manager lacks team-building skills. (Source)
So how can you improve your communication skills? In the next section, we’ll discuss 17 communication skills managers need:
17 Skills Every Manager Needs to Improve Communication at Work
It’s a common misconception that powerful communication skills come naturally to some and can’t be taught. Anyone can improve their skills with a few helpful tips:
Knowing how to engage team members and build relationships effectively can make a difference.
One of the most critical skills you need as a manager is to hear what your team has to say. Re-state their main points, clarify what you think you heard, and focus on absorbing what they say, not your next talking point.
If your team doesn’t have the confidence that you can patiently hear them, they will not come to you with their issues or problems.
Here are some key differences between an effective listener, and an ineffective listener.
- Pay attention to the message
- Listen open-mindedly
- Convey through body language and eye contact that they are listening and open to the message
- Don’t interrupt
- Respond with thoughtful questions
- Are disengaged
- Assume that they already know and understand what the other person is saying
- Convey that they are checked out of the conversation with their body language
- Are distracted
2. Delivering information
When the management has a piece of information to deliver to your team, they will come to you. Your job is to help your team members stay aware and updated with information relevant to them. Be clear and concise while delivering a message. Use short, simple words. Eliminate fluff.
Communicate a message consistently across multiple touchpoints. When employees hear the same message repeated, they’re more likely to take notice and act on it.
Here are some things to think about when delivering a message:
- The goal of your message
- How your message impacts others
- The key points you want to convey
- What tone you’re using
Make sure that you respond well to your team- be it a conflict between members of your team or any general project issue. This requires outstanding attention to detail and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
Take this approach, ‘I am curious about what we could have done differently to achieve a better outcome?’ rather than ‘What could you have done?’ is more helpful.”
4. Communicating verbally
Remember to choose your words wisely and set the content well before speaking on any important matters. Maintain a comfortable level of eye contact.
Every time you communicate with an employee, answer the questions:
- What are their interests?
- Do they have specific communication preferences?
- What do they need to know, and what do they want to know?
Team skills help you more effectively lead teams in both formal and informal environments.
5. Using Tools
It must be a challenge to get the most out of your team members. Team management tools and techniques can help you guide and lead your team the best way that you could.
Use project management tools like Trello to delegate various tasks to your team members. This will help get the work done faster. Assign tasks according to each member’s capabilities.
Use Slack or Google Chat to communicate with your team. Use Hangout or Zoom to conduct video team meetings.
Once in a while, you must conduct a brainstorming session with your team. Your team members might have good ideas they’ve never spoken of. With the right direction and motivation from the manager, they will be able to become more open about these.
A brainstorming session also tells the fact that you welcome new and innovative solutions, sending a positive message to team members.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts:
Don’t: Immediately get everyone involved
Do: Give people some time to think on their own
Don’t: Put limitations on the brainstorming session
Do: Allow everyone to talk openly without structure
Don’t: Limit the ideation to one brainstorming session
Do: Allow everyone to add in ideas on their own later
Don’t: Record only the good ideas
Do: Record everything
7. Resolving conflicts
Being a manager means solving problems. It’s the foundation of your job. You and your team will inevitably face challenges and conflicts.
A good idea is to establish clear roles and responsibilities in your team. This helps employees respect each other’s work boundaries and go to the right person to get a job done. Instead of answering, when conflicts arise, ask questions that challenge assumptions to help your team find the root of the problem.
Say “When this happens …” instead of “When you do …” Describe a specific instance or event instead of generalizing.
8. Communicating goals
As a manager, it must be your priority to help everyone be on the same page when it comes to their goals. Leverage activities that help your team understand their and each other’s contributions well.
Question their ways of working, tools, and processes: are they the most efficient and relevant to achieve their goals?
Here are some tips you can follow:
- Communicate the “non-negotiable activities” – direct responsibilities that your team has to perform to perform better at their job.
- Describe the company culture so the team member knows what kind of work environment they will be a part of.
- Clarify the reporting procedure that the team member will have to follow.
9. Recognizing team members
Recognition is the recipe for complete success when you’re trying to be a better manager. Your job as a leader is not just to make sure that your team delivers the task but also to appreciate what they do.
Especially when employees are working in a large group, their efforts go unnoticed. Not every employee might be the one to prepare presentations or polish up the end, where most of the efforts are recognized. Some might even be putting up the missing piece at the beginning of a job leading to its end success.
Comprehension skills help you to know how to deliver information and motivate employees to do their best job.
10. Using storytelling to communicate
Sometimes a story can do a great job in helping the message deliver effectively. Be it motivation, a lesson you need to share with your team members, or anything else, use storytelling, especially if the underlying message is important.
When a team needs to be motivated, communication in the form of stories will generate a stronger reaction when compared to passive data.
11. Personalize communication
You wouldn’t walk into a Chinese restaurant and order a pizza, right?
Figuring out the communication preferences of your team members is important to ensure that your messages resonate. If you’re not sure about your employees’ communication preferences, don’t be afraid to ask.
Does Employee A prefer written communication over verbal? Send them an email.
Does Employee B seem to respond better during face-to-face meetings? Communicate with them that way.
Writing skills are an essential aspect of communication, no matter what. Most of the formal work has to be sent via emails and other forms of written communication.
Always follow this tip in written communication – use simple and straightforward language to make your messages easily understandable and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Try this exercise next time you send an email or message to your team:
- Write the message as you normally would
- Try and find one sentence that you can completely eliminate
- Identify any long or complicated words and phrases you can replace
Becoming a great manager means becoming a coach for your team. While getting a job done is your responsibility, don’t forget that helping your team members accomplish a task is on your hands too.
To instruct a team how to learn a task, use this method:
- Explain: Give the employee a basic understanding of the steps needed to do the skill
- Demonstrate: Do the task yourself
- Guide: Help them perform the skill themselves, walk them through the process
- Enable: Guide them through the skill until they are able to do it themselves
Every time you present, there’s an opportunity to find out if your team members get what you’re saying or presenting.
How can you do it? Just ask questions like, “What challenges and opportunities do you see with what I’ve explained?” Or “What are your key takeaways from the information I just shared?”
Creating opportunities for asking questions helps you understand in real-time how well your team members receive your information.
Process skills focus on creating and implementing processes that impact company performance.
15. Making meetings matter
Communication is all about delivering information effectively. And as a manager, you must make the moments count, especially in meetings.
It’s necessary to let people know the meeting agenda in advance or provide any information that will help team members better prepare themselves. The worst thing you can do is beat around the bush and waste everyone’s time.
The agenda should include:
- a list of topics to be covered
- a brief description of the meeting’s objectives
- a list of people attending the meeting
- who will address each topic
- the time and location of the meeting
What’s the most important thing you should do with your agenda? Follow it closely!
16. Communicating performance feedback
Make sure you communicate the feedback on performance of your team members. While this might also include improvements, the idea is to help your employees stay positive instead of demotivating them. Give feedback in a timely manner so employees can start improving right away.
Be specific (avoid generalisms) when giving constructive feedback. Here’s an example of constructive feedback on time management issue:
“Thanks for letting me know you’re running behind schedule on this project. Let’s take a look at your goals and see how you’re spending your time — I bet there are opportunities for efficiency there.”
17. One-on-One interaction
Part of effective communication is one-on-one interaction. This will help you get to know your team’s body language, personality, and tone. In remote work scenarios, try hosting video calls. A one-on-one meeting is a great tool to give and receive constructive feedback.
Find this guide with a bank of 150 one-on-one questions to help you have more effective and meaningful conversations.
In this guide, you’ll discover seventeen communication skills every manager needs.
Looking for tried and tested communication best practices for remote employees? Here, we’ll discover how to create effective communication plan for remote employees.
Here are some quick tips to improve communication skills:
1. Be clear and concise. Organize your thoughts.
2. Consider who you’re communicating with.
3. Think before you speak to guide the interpretation of your message
4. Listen carefully and re-state their main points.
5. Maintain eye contact, demonstrate that they have your undivided attention.
Use this list as a guide for improving communication skills and creating a roadmap for team success.
An effective recognition and rewards tool like EngageWith helps you to appreciate and recognize peers, juniors, or managers. It builds stronger working relationships and a greater sense of belonging.