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8 quick ways to improve communication with your staff

Only a great communicator can be a great manager. Here are eight rules for communicating well with staff.

1 Give reasons

Always give complete information on decisions that affect staff. If there’s no reason given for some new requirement, don’t expect people to get behind it and support it. They start second guessing the why of it, and that second guess is apt to be negative. Worse, they’re insulted that they aren’t made privy to what’s going on. Even when the intent is to protect staff from worry, they feel left out, undervalued, and belittled. What they hear is “now, now, don’t worry your little heads about this.”

2 Match action to policy

Make the action match the policy. If the policy is no tardiness, don’t allow certain staffers a few extra minutes each morning. Don’t say “we reward team playing” and then recognize only individuals. Reward the team. Or if the policy is “my door is always open,” don’t ask people to make appointments, and don’t greet the staffer who walks in unannounced with body language that says “don’t bother me.”

3 Share sensitive news first

When there’s sensitive news about the firm, make sure staff hear about it from the administrator and not from some outside source. Merger talks is an example. There’s no need to announce that at the onset, but when it gets to the point that the news could leak out, tell everybody about it. Let them hear about it from a client or from somebody at another office and there’s going to be a panic – plus loss of trust in the firm.

4 Admit mistakes

Admit to mistakes and apologize for them. That doesn’t show weakness or incompetence. It’s a mark of candor, and people admire that. What’s more, staff will follow the lead and admit to their own mistakes and try to correct them. They know they don’t have to hide things.

5. Address performance problems

Address performance problems head-on. Just about all managers hate doing that, so it’s not uncommon to see poor performance allowed to go on indefinitely. The excuse is that there’s value in making everybody feel good, so instead of confronting the poor performers and demanding better work, the manager just quietly shifts the work to the other staff. Everybody knows the poor performer is being coddled, nobody gets complimented or paid more for picking up the slack, and there goes the morale. Staff see that no matter how much they work, Poor Performer over there is goofing off and getting the same pats on the back.

6. Compliment sincerely

When somebody does good work, give more than a dry compliment where the words say one thing and the body language says another. In a staff meeting, for example, don’t phrase a compliment as “You did a great job on that project. Now let’s move on to X.” Accompany the compliment with a pause, a smile, and eye contact with the staffer. Without that, the compliment looks routine and forced. It’s clearly not authentic and therefore leans toward being insulting.

7 Get to the point

Then there’s the get-to-the-point-fast rule. When there’s an announcement to be made make the bottom line the opening line. Get to the point. Many managers take the once-upon-a-time approach and tell everything like a story with a beginning, middle, and end. They give the background first and don’t reveal the message until everybody has lost interest in what’s being said. Go the other way around. Make the punch line the opening line. Tell what action and has been taken and then follow that with the why and how.

8 Communicate with staff daily

Communicating is something that has to be done daily and preferably more often than that. Make it part of each day’s plan to walk around the office and talk to every employee. Meet with staff as often as possible to tell them what’s happening and what’s coming. Throw in some e-mail announcements here and there. Send out a staff newsletter. If there’s going to be trust and good morale, the communication between staff and management has to be always open.

Related reading:

How to get new staffers off to a strong start

Here’s an easy way to make your performance reviews effective

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