Communication is often viewed as a simplistic, innate ability. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t have a natural ability to successfully communicate with employees.
A study by Quantum Leadership Group found that ‘clearly communicating expectations’ (56 percent) and ‘communicating often and openly’ (42 percent) are two of the 10 top competencies expected of leadership.
However, our own research found that 30 percent of employees don’t feel the organization or human resources and internal communication professionals properly communicate important company information.
So, we turned to the experts about what leaders should stop doing immediately — and what they should do instead — with regard to employee communication.
Don’t skip the praise
When employee communication is poor, morale plummets; the culture suffers; the team loses spirit/energy; and employee commitment, productivity, and performance derail.
Don’t forget to use praise to generate motivation, personal learning, and personal growth. Praise serves to motivate and energize our personal core. Great leaders are self-aware.
Don’t forget to use praise to generate positive energy to fire up the team. Praise is the fuel that energizes and stimulates group work. A culture of praise is absolutely essential for innovation to occur. People are excited about what’s next. They’re coming in with ideas. They’re willing to share their success stories and failure with each other to learn and grow.
Instead, use praise and recognition as key components of your management strategy. A management style designed to appeal to an organization’s most important resource — its people — can be highly effective.
Praise is critical to build morale and productivity, give team members a vision of where they’re going that is positive, and a sense that they are moving forward — that there is something really exciting and worthwhile ahead of them.
Focus on these eight people initiatives — discovered in our research — to create a culture of praise and recognition. Each has the power to motivate personal discovery and contribute to the success of the team.
- View good communication as an ongoing and essential ingredient of people management.
- Know that praise and recognition can help to make everyone in an organization feel valued.
- Personalize praise — match the right kind and amount of praise to each recipient.
- Recognize the power of indirect praise.
- Use written and other tangible forms of recognition — not just verbal praise — and give one’s time, too.
- Praise on the scene and behind the scenes.
- Praise both the effort and the outcome.
- Create a system for giving praise, and be creative and consistent.
Finally, mentor managers on how to give praise. Team leaders aren’t always ready to dole out praise on day one! They require some how-to mentoring.
Don’t use accusatory language
Don’t use ‘you’ language to accuse. For example, “You were supposed to do . . . and you didn’t.” You language is synonymous with finger-pointing and encourages defensiveness — and in some dangerous cases in the news today, offensiveness.
Instead, incorporate this verbal dialogue: “When you didn’t get the report in, I feared we would miss the CEO’s deadline, which would have made our department look bad.” This verbal setup allows the employee to understand the ramifications of having not achieved his/her goal.
Don’t hide from — or tower over — employees
Don’t sit behind your desk if you want to build rapport. I was consulting at a company where the boss sat behind his massive desk to communicate with his employees who were sitting in low seats in front of the desk.
I was brought in because employees felt powerless and unmotivated, and the company was struggling. As soon as I directed the boss to rearrange his office for collegiality and trained
him how to lead participative — instead of boss-led — discussions, everything changed!
Today, the company is six times its size, and the boss’s office boasts chairs of equal height where problems are probed head-on and issues are resolved successfully.
Don’t accept problems without possible solutions
Don’t entertain complaints without the expectation of possible solutions. Create a welcoming atmosphere in your office, but be sure employees aren’t using your open door as a dumping ground for their complaints.
Set up boundaries where employees know that if they bring you a problem, they have done research on some possible solutions, as well. This creates a productive environment of problem-sharing among the group, not just top-down problem-solving by the boss. Such an integrative workplace stimulates creativity, motivation, and ownership of rewards.