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Communication -- Tips For Managers
Research indicates that
managers spend somewhere between 50% - 80% of
their total time communicating
in one way or the other. This isn't
surprising, since communication
is so critical to everything that goes on
in an organization.
Without effective communication there can be little
or no performance management,
innovation, understanding of clients,
coordination of effort,
AND, without effective communication it is
difficult to manage the
expectations of those who are in a position to
make decisions about
It can also be said that
many managers do not communicate well, and
do not set an organizational
climate where communication within the
organization is managed
effectively. This isn't surprising, since a
manager who communicates
ineffectively and does not encourage
communication is unlikely to hear about it.
Poor communication is
self-sustaining, because it eliminates an
important "feedback loop".
Staff are loathe to "communicate" their
concerns about communication
because they do not perceive the
manager as receptive.
Both staff and management play out a little
In short, you may be fostering
poor communication, and never know it.
You may see the symptoms,
but unless you are looking carefully, you
may not identify your
own involvement in the problem. What can you
do about it?
Your Role In Communication
communication, regardless of form, requires
First, all players must
have the appropriate skills and understanding to
Communication is not a simple process, and many
people simply do not
have the required depth of understanding of
Second, effective organizational
communication requires a climate or
culture that supports
effective communication. More specifically, this
climate involves trust,
openness, reinforcement of good communication
practices, and shared
responsibility for making communication effective.
Third, effective communication
requires attention. It doesn't just
happen, but develops
as a result of an intentional effort on the part of
management and staff.
Too often, communication, whether it is good or
bad, is taken for granted.
We can define your role
in improving communication with respect to
each of these.
First, if you want to improve communication, you will
need to ensure that you
and staff have the skills and knowledge
necessary to communicate
effectively. This may mean formal training
is in order, or it may
mean that you coach staff and provide feedback so
that they can improve.
Second, you play a critical
role in fostering and nurturing a climate that
is characterized by open
communication. Without this climate, all the
skills in the world will
Finally, you must bring
communication to the forefront of organization
attention. If you
make the effort to improve communication, your staff
will recognize that it
is important. If you ignore it, so will staff.
Some Specific Tips:
solicit feedback about your own communication, and
the organization. Ask staff questions like:
When we talk, are you generally clear about what I am saying?
Do you think we communicate well around here?
Have you got any ideas about how we could communicate better?
Consider including these
questions (or similar ones) in your
process, or staff meetings.
your own communication knowledge and understanding
(See self-assessment instrument
on Page 5-sorry, not available online).
with your staff, define how you should communicate
in the organization.
Develop consensus regarding:
a) How disagreements should be handled.
b) How horizontal communication should work (staff to staff).
c) How vertical communication should work (manager to
staff, staff to manager).
d) What information should be available and when.
Once consensus is reached, support the achievement of these goals
through positive reinforcement and coaching.
4) Look at
the impact of the structure of your organization and how it impacts
on communication. Indirect communication (communication
that is transferred from person to person) is notorious for
causing problems. Look at increasing direct communication where the
person with the message to send does it directly with the receiver.
5) Learn about,
and use active listening techniques. This will set a tone and contribute
to a positive communication climate. If you don't know what
active listening is, find out. It's important.
undertaking a communications audit. (see sidebar).
We only have space to
give you a few tips, and communication is a
very complex process.
We suggest that you take the communication
on the following page, to assess your own
understanding and application
of communication principles.
If you would like to increase
awareness and attention to communication,
consider copying the
self-assessment checklist and distribute it to staff.
Suggest that they complete
it for their own use, and follow it up by
communication in a staff meeting.
Be aware that exploring
communication patterns and effectiveness can
bring to the surface
a number of resentments and perceptions. If you
aren't prepared to deal
with these, it is best to look to an outside