Most industries and organisations have experienced periods of far reaching and sometimes devastating change.
In these situations, companies are under pressure to respond to any new challenges quickly, and to successfully adapt the ways in which technologies and processes are used throughout their organisation.
It is not difficult to see that a clear and consistent communication strategy is paramount if organisations, and their leadership, want to roll out any changes efficiently and effectively – and take their employees with them.
A successful communication strategy depends on the full support and buy-in of senior leaders. It also needs to allow for a two-way or even multi-directional exchange.
Employees need meaningful opportunities and points of engagement so that they can feed their views upwards, whilst also allowing for constructive discussions with their colleagues. This will ensure that Managers remain connected, and that employees feel empowered and heard.
We know from Gallup research that Managers are seen to be responsible for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. This in turn affects employee performance, retention and well-being.
Communication is a critical contributor to employee engagement
The recent People Management Survey conducted by The Predictive Index asked people to “chose the most common traits of terrible managers”. 58% answered that their Manager does not communicate clear expectations, 48% that they are a poor verbal communicator, and 47% that they do not set clear expectations for them personally.
In their State of the American Manager report, Gallup defines a “manager” as someone who is “responsible for leading a team toward common objectives”. Someone who takes the direction and goals set by the top-level leadership and “makes this actionable at the local level”.
So, as a Manager, you are tasked with making sure that employees are aligned with existing and changing company goals. It is your responsibility to communicate expectations clearly.
Particularly in times of change, it also falls to you to provide the necessary air of stability and confidence for your employees. Uncertainty breeds employee disengagement.
This places a huge amount of responsibility on the shoulders of all Managers, and not every leader is naturally equipped with the necessary tools to be able to deliver on this.
So, how can you avoid that your communication style contributes to employee disengagement?
How can you improve your communication skills to make you a better leader, improve your relationship with your team and boost their morale – and ultimately their productivity?
There are many useful hints and tips available around the topic of how to enhance your communication skills as a leader. However, the most heavily weighted issue with the most far-reaching consequences is centred around self-awareness – or rather, the lack of it.
Great leaders are aware of their capabilities and blind spots.
A 360-review process, for instance, can provide an honest review of how the members of your team perceive you. It provides a baseline. The results of your personality, leadership competencies, and personal values from this assessment can then contribute to an increased self-awareness.
They allow you to draw conclusions based on your inherent behavioural drives and motivations, and provide a starting point for identifying your natural leadership strengths.
They are also likely to recommend some self-coaching tips for any areas in your leadership skill set that may need development – including communication – and help to adapt your natural behavioural style to a variety of situations and people.
Self-awareness directly feeds into your communication style.
Having an understanding of how your own behaviour, thoughts and emotions can affect others will help you to manage yourself in a way that enables you to make the other person, or your entire team, an important part of the conversation.
If you are more comfortable with yourself, you are more likely to be able to relate to others with genuine interest, confidence, and compassion. This will positively impact on how you communicate with your team members and colleagues.
Being aware of yourself – and the needs of others – will also improve your listening skills. It will curb your need to have to talk and enable you to listen to people instead. It opens the channel for a two-way dialogue.
As a Manager, you are responsible for selecting, inspiring and retaining the talent in your company, which is necessarily linked to delivering the required business results. Your leadership – particularly the way in which you communicate – directly impacts employee engagement and productivity.
The ideas around Talent Optimization, especially designing a positive organisational culture, may help with this. This discipline allows companies to design and develop their people for maximum output and results. Organisational culture is an important part of this.
If you, as a Manager, can contribute to creating an organisational culture where effective internal communication develops trust and understanding, this will have a positive influence on your employee’s morale. It will ultimately bring your organisation closer to achieving their business goals.
Without a workforce that is engaged and high-performing, it’ll be difficult for organisations to respond to change, prepare for mergers or acquisitions or meet any other business goal.
Good internal communication will help your employees to understand the aims and strategies of your organisation, align with its values, and develop a sense of belonging by understanding how their role contributes to the wider goals.
Your people are more likely to want to contribute, and feel more committed and loyal to an organisation where effective and open internal communication is part of the organisational culture.