Clear communication with others is essential in all walks of life, but particularly so when it comes to the workplace. While it might seem simple, most of us are all too familiar with the fallout from a wrongly interpreted email, misjudged feedback or seemingly conflicting requests from colleagues. Being the best boss you can possibly be is, in large part, mastering the art of communication.
Here are six ways you can clear up communication confusion within your team, making sure the message you send is the message you intended.
Cut the jargon
Using workplace-specific terminology can make communication much more efficient, as long as everyone is on the same page. As soon as you have to translate acronyms or abbreviations then productivity is going to spiral into nothingness. Make sure newer employees or non-management staff correctly understand common jargon before you rely on it to convey your message (a short training session or printed cheat-sheet might help), and you’ll make life easier for everyone involved.
End the Chinese whispers
If you currently rely on your chain of command to issue directions, stop it now. Everyone knows the childhood game where words get misunderstood and mistranslated along the line, and the exact same effect can happen when your instructions are paraphrased or elaborated upon by others before reaching their intended ears.
Depending on your industry this can be remedied in a number of ways. If your workplace has a very hierarchical structure it may mean checking in with each level of your teams, not just the managers beneath you. If you’re trying to manage the schedules of a big team of shift-based employees, using an online staff rota software can keep the chain of communication simple and transparent.
Prioritise your expectations
As a team manager or supervisor, it’s likely that you’re going to be dishing out a large number of tasks to your staff and expecting them to know which they need to prioritize – a recipe for total disaster. Without clear direction, your employees can feel overwhelmed, and you’re going to be disappointed when they choose to do tasks in an order that you’re not happy with.
If there is a clear route to success then, as the team leader, it’s your job to map this out and share it with your employees. Being clear about goals and targets each day, week or month will help your team understand what needs to be done and when you need by.
Open your door
More than just investing in a door wedge, you need all of your employees to know that they have an open invitation to speak to you about their concerns, questions, and comments. Employees of all levels will have queries from time to time, and the key to nurturing better morale and performance is to show that their thoughts are valid and valued and not seen as a waste of your time.
After an employee comes to speak to you about a matter, show that they have been taken seriously by demonstrating that you are willing to work on it with them, or provide the support they need to address matters themselves.
It’s not uncommon for employees to panic about disappointing or disagreeing with their superiors, and deciding to fudge the truth a little bit to compensate. This is clearly unproductive, but rather than putting all of the onus on your staff, have a look at the way you currently handle less-than-ideal information and see if it could be improved.
Create an environment where your staff knows that they can raise negative issues without putting their professional position on the line. It will allow these areas to be dealt with proactively by all members of the team, ultimately helping your business to grow and improve much more effectively than if you force everyone to focus only on the positives.
Always use more than one method of communication
Sometimes it’s easier to explain something verbally than over email, and other times shooting someone a brief one-liner is far more efficient than setting up a meeting. If you’re dealing with important information or expecting someone to perform a detailed task following your communication, then it’s always a good idea to follow up.
Confirm the details of a phone call or face-to-face meeting with a follow-up email or text (as appropriate), and similarly have a verbal conversation with someone to run through a complicated written message. Highlight the most important details (deadlines, specific actions required, key goals) in both instances and you’ll find that communication gaps are much smaller and happen far less frequently. Not only will it help your employee to feel like they have all the information they need, but as a manager, you will have a record of exactly what information was given.
These communication strategies can go both ways. Once you’ve addressed your own management processes, encourage your employees to consider the ways in which they communicate with each other and back to you. There’s no point having an open door if nobody is prepared to walk through it, and it’s up to you to ensure that you’re in the communication loop with your team.