As a manager of people, your ability to communicate is critical to both the success of your career and the business. Employees look to you to understand the corporate mission and strategy. Chances are, you already have decent communication skills (otherwise you wouldn’t be in a leadership position). But changes in the workforce aren’t making communication any easier. Here are three tips for communicating more effectively with employees and for avoiding the burn-out that can come from repeating yourself.
If you feel as though the communication skills you honed earlier in your career aren’t working in recent years, there’s a reason for that. Leaders today must communicate to a highly diverse and distributed workforce. Case in point: There are now four generations in the workplace, and remote work policies enable employees to work anywhere around the globe. Ensuring that everyone not only receives your message but also understands it can be a challenge.
The first thing to realize is that your natural communication style doesn’t necessarily jell with your employees’. “If you’re an accomplished leader, it’s pretty darn likely that your communication is too complex,” explains Alison Davis for Inc.com. “After all, you spend a considerable amount of time each day dealing with both big-picture concerns and short-term challenges, so you’ve gotten used to communicating in a complicated way.”
Simplify communications to reduce confusion
When you communicate in a complex manner you risk multiple interpretations of your message. “Your team members aren’t dumb, but they are busy and they have different perspectives than you do. So help them understand even complex issues by making communication as simple and straightforward as possible,” writes Davis.
You can easily help people understand what you’re saying by communicating with them in person. When this isn’t possible, face-to-face via a video conference is the next best thing. As humans, we use much more than our voice to communicate. A video call enables people to key into nonverbal cues that they would otherwise miss. It also allows you, as the speaker, to determine by their expressions whether people understand what you are saying. With an enterprise-grade solution, you can also share content in real-time, which can help visual learners grasp what you’re talking about.
Video also helps create a safe space in which employees are more likely to ask clarifying questions. But leaders should also “[e]ncourage questions by asking them. When meeting with team members, ask, ‘What’s preventing us from accomplishing this? What are you hearing from customers and suppliers that will help us or hurt us? What do we need to talk about to make this happen?’ This rich dialogue will increase understanding better than any PowerPoint,” writes Davis.
We’ve all been on the audio conference where participants who are willing to speak up talk over each other. In a video conference everyone can see each other and presence disparity is eliminated, which makes your audience more likely to feel included in the conversation—and more likely to speak up. Employees who would otherwise hesitate to ask questions for fear of interrupting another speaker can “read the room” and speak more confidently.
Senior leaders, set the example
Finally, when communicating, business leaders should be mindful of the fact that “most people only remember a measly 17-25% of the things they listen to,” writes Kat Boogaard for Inc.com.
What can you do about it? According to Boogaard, “[T]he solution is really as simple as being conscious of those distractions, tuning them out, and giving your conversational partner the full attention that he or she deserves.”
Senior leaders, this advice applies to you as much as it does your employees. Checking email on your smartphone during a meeting tells employees that you don’t care what they have to say. What’s more, it gives them permission to do the same. Instill a culture of mutual respect in which external distractions are kept to a minimum and multi-tasking is discouraged. Video can help hold everyone accountable, as meeting participants can see when attentions are divided. And by encouraging discussion, video can increase retention to 70%.
The importance of good communication skills for senior leaders cannot be overstated. When your team cannot gather in the same room, a video conferencing solution can help you better leverage those skills and encourage them in others to ensure that your message is understood by everyone.