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Improving Communication -- Tips For Managers (Article) 
 
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Management Effectiveness 

Improving 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 your fate. 

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 
effective organizational 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 
dance. 

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 Improvement 

Effective organizational communication, regardless of form, requires 
three things. 

First, all players must have the appropriate skills and understanding to 
communicate well.  Communication is not a simple process, and many 
people simply do not have the required depth of understanding of 
communication issues. 

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 be wasted. 

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: 

1)   Actively solicit feedback about your own  communication, and 
communication within 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 
performance management process, or staff  meetings. 

2)   Assess your own communication knowledge and  understanding 

(See self-assessment instrument on Page 5-sorry, not available online). 

3)   Working 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. 

6)   Consider undertaking a communications audit. (see sidebar). 

Conclusion 

We only have space to give you a few tips, and communication is a 
very complex process.  We suggest that you take the communication 
self-assessment checklist 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 
discussing organizational 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 
consultant. 

 
 

 
 
 

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