Lack of effective communication with staff can create problems for any business. Managers who are committed to active, open communication, however, can help boost productivity and morale.
Listen up Regularly discuss company developments, and genuinely speak with your team, not just to them. Employees who feel lectured to, rather than communicated with, are much more likely to become alienated.
Like any other managerial skill, listening takes practice. Show that you're engaged by making eye contact, nodding your head and asking an occasional question to clarify what you're being told.
As a manager, you may sometimes be tempted to cut a team member short and quickly provide the answer you think he or she is looking for. But when stress and insecurity levels are high, employees seek more than a piece of information or a decision—they also seek affirmation of their connection to the team and the company as a whole. Letting them voice their concern in full is as important as your response.
How open is your door? Many managers claim to have an open-door policy but undermine that policy with their everyday communication habits. When you don't respond promptly to a voicemail or email, for example, you send a message that your door may not be so open after all.
Ironically, one of the best ways to maintain openness is to occasionally shut your door completely. Taking time out to sequester yourself for brief, pre-announced periods lets you concentrate on a demanding project or concern so you can be more accessible and responsive the rest of the time.
When you're known to be accessible, employees are more likely to come to you with concerns before these develop into problems. Since top performers are sometimes the most reluctant to complain, establishing accessibility can be a critical part of maintaining productivity.
When team members are worried about their job security as well as the health of the company, managing the grapevine becomes an urgent priority. It may be tempting to keep discouraging information under wraps, but silence will only add fuel to any fearful speculation beginning to circulate. When you catch wind of a rumor, address it openly.
All hands on deck
Your communication efforts should be geared toward helping team members see their work in a common context. When assigning a task or discussing a new development, always explain how it supports larger business objectives.
Staff members should also be encouraged to see themselves as active participants in the challenges your company is facing. Schedule a brainstorming session to come up with creative ways to solve departmental challenges. Most people will be energized by the chance to take ownership in a project.
By communicating openly and honestly, managers can help create an atmosphere of mutual trust and transparency. In such an environment, even tough challenges can serve to bring a team closer together, rather than break it apart.