Communicate Communicate Communicate
Research indicates that managers spend somewhere between 50 to 80 percent of their total time communicating in one way or the other. This isn't surprising as 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 community needs or coordination of efforts.
You may be fostering poor communication without even knowing it. The symptoms may be evident, but unless you are looking carefully, you may not identify your own involvement in the problem. The following fundamental principles might help you assess your communication habits.
- Effective communication requires attention. It doesn't just happen; it develops as a result of an intentional effort on the part of management and staff.
What can you do?
- Hold regular or periodic staff meetings-if only to share what individuals are working on or concerned about.
- Copy your staff on e-mail messages that may be of interest, even if some of the people aren't directly concerned. You could also copy staff on non-confidential reports to your supervisor. This helps staff to understand the broader picture and offers an opportunity for staff to be participants in larger actions satisfying a natural human need to be engaged. If you involve people, they can do anything!
- Avoid the "activity trap" that lurks for every hard-working supervisor. Break your relentless focus on tasks every couple of hours or so. Get up, walk around, and talk with the people who report to you.
- At least one Staff member from most offices has attended one of the Customer Service training sessions. (Remember, in a healthy organization, "customers" include people from other offices.) Ask those staff members to share with the rest of the office the insights gained from that training.
- Effective organizational communication requires a climate of trust, openness, reinforcement of good communication practices, and shared responsibility for making communication effective.
Supervisors play a critical role in fostering a climate that is characterized by open communication. Without this climate, all the skills in the world will be wasted.
What can you do?
- Establish intentional communications across functional departments-this is particularly important when a troubled history exists between two or more areas. Meetings and brief, written status reports circulated to everyone involved nets tremendous results.
- Connect with people. Make time to take an interest in the people you come in contact with every day. A few minutes of conversation creates a sense of community and helps you to understand each other better.
- Listen. And, then listen some more. Talking and telling is only one part of communication. Listening, especially at the supervisory level, is even more important. Responding to staff-identified issues through follow-up action is perhaps the clearest indicator that you have listened.
- Give people the tools, encouragement and freedom to do their jobs.
Communication is not a simple process, and for most people it does not come naturally-it must be planned. It is our supervisors who are responsible for bringing communication to the forefront. If you make the effort to improve communication, your staff will recognize that it is important. If you ignore it, so will your staff.