Communication skills are an essential part of the leader’s toolbox. However, a recent article reported that nearly seventy percent of managers polled indicated that managers find communicating with employees is the biggest challenge for them.
What’s at stake if managers don’t step out of their comfort zones to connect with employees? First, lack of communication leads to decreased levels of engagement and productivity, and employees are already disengaged. Employees repeatedly indicate that they need to hear from leadership to feel connected to work.
Furthermore, as more companies move toward continuous performance conversations to close productivity gaps, leaders are expected to have regular, meaningful dialogue to help employees do their best work.
So how can leaders get better at communication? It takes more than channeling your inner Michael Scott for water cooler chatter. Here are a few tips:
- Know your people. Take some time to learn and understand your employees communication preferences. Knowing how to best connect with them is the first step to improving your connection.
- Keep it meaningful. Employees want to know how they’re doing, what the goals are, and to be able to ask questions. Prepare yourself to share this information when you meet with employees.
- Make sure employees feel heard. Improved communication also includes intentional listening. Your communication becomes more meaningful when employees feel that they are being heard. Be willing to hear positive and negative feedback about your performance, too.
Consider the Radical Candor method. In the book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Scott advocates for career conversations that focus on letting the employee talk about their motivations and hopes, then creating a career development plan that incorporates them.
What are you doing to keep meaningful conversations happening at work? Are you asking employees about their motivations and aspirations? What will you change this year to improve employee engagement?