Effective management communication is essential for guiding teams and lifting morale during challenging and uncertain moments. But what if communicating with employees has never been one of your top strengths? And what if your staff members are working remotely? For many managers, keeping employees informed and making them feel supported while working at a distance during the past two years has proven to be a difficult transition.
Trying to muddle through without taking action to improve your management communication skills is not an option. The ability to deliver clear messaging — including through virtual communication — will continue to be critical as home and hybrid working looks set to stay. Maybe your whole team will continue working remotely, or perhaps you’ll need to manage a mix of remote and on-site employees. Either way, they’ll need a steady stream of reliable information.
Seven helpful strategies for management communication:
1. Communicate more frequently
No amount of communication is too much. A good rule of thumb is to communicate two to three times more often with your remote employees as you did in person.
For example, if your past practice was updating your in-office team once a week on Monday morning, consider changing the frequency to every other day — Monday, Wednesday and Friday. To underscore the importance of these additional check-ins, keep calls on time and limit cancellations.
2. Promote virtual communication
Effective virtual communication, particularly video conferencing, is obviously essential if your entire team is working remotely. There’s a good chance many employees will still work remotely at least part of the time in future - and you can’t relax your efforts to help everyone stay connected.
Continuing to make all key meetings virtual is one option. If a meeting must be held on-site, promptly fill in staff working remotely on any decisions made pertaining to their projects.
You can do a lot to make virtual communication successful. That includes making sure employee communication isn’t hindered by easy-to-solve tech obstacles. Learn as much as you can about the collaboration and data-sharing apps your company uses. Aim to become a source of support for your team to troubleshoot issues when they arise. And by better understanding how these tools work, you’ll feel more comfortable using them when communicating with employees.
3. Embrace transparency
While it can be tempting to sugar-coat difficult news, that approach can easily backfire. Be as transparent as possible when sharing the latest information about the state of the business. Stick to the facts and avoid speculating, even when asked to.
This does not mean stonewalling, however. You can still keep a positive tone to your responses with something like, “I know everyone has this question, but we just don’t know yet. In the meantime, we’re encouraged at the progress the company is making because of your efforts".
4. Listen actively — and with empathy
The ability to listen actively to employees is the mark of a good manager. If you’re the one who’s doing all the talking, all the time, then you can’t tune in. Your team members need to know they are heard and that you take their concerns and questions seriously. Don’t assume you know exactly what your workers are feeling. Check in on them individually, asking questions and then listening with an empathetic ear.
What does it mean to listen actively? It means truly focusing on the individual’s words rather than silently formulating a response while they’re speaking to you. During video meetings, take note of nonverbal cues. In short, give the other person your full attention.
5. Make yourself available
Let your employees know they can come to you. Institute a virtual open-door policy and make yourself available to hear their concerns and ideas.
By communicating with your team in a two-way fashion, instead of always delivering messages from the “top down,” you’ll create a sense of trust — and inspire their ongoing support for the company’s efforts to manage change now and moving forward.
6. Paint the big picture
Another way to boost your communication skills as a manager is to help your team understand the connection between their duties and the broader strategic goals of the business, which may be evolving rapidly right now.
Engagement and productivity rise when people know that their work matters. It’s always important to remind them how much their contributions and commitment are valued and how important they are to the bottom line. So, be quick to offer appreciation and share any wins the team achieves.
7. Keep their future in focus
While there’s likely no shortage of pressing projects or concerns for you and your employees to focus on, you should also get workers thinking about opportunities that lie ahead for the company as well as for them as individuals.
To rally everyone around the same vision, make it clear how the company’s mission and values continue to guide the business. Above all else, remind them that you’re all part of a team.
Effective management communication is a requirement for business leaders guiding their teams, especially in a time of change. It’s also a skillset that many executives need to polish, but doing so is essential to your team's dynamic and productivity. They need to have confidence in your words — and know that you are listening to what they have to say, too.
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