Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Building Effective Communication Skills

clip_image002This article was written by Bern Lefson, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Various studies have shown that managers spend anywhere from 50% to 80% of their time communicating. Effective communication is rarely discussed as a prime factor in a manager’s success. Yet, if one spends this much time communicating one should try to be quite good at it.

For example, assume you are responsible for managing a team of five people to achieve stated monthly goals. How could you successfully lead your team without constant effective communications? Answer: You couldn’t. It’s not just how well you speak or the spoken words you use.

You must write effectively, too. You’re probably required to write e-mails, memos, policies, and procedures. Readers must understand your words and act in the manner you desire. Good communication is critical to effective management. Here are some simple suggestions to improve your managerial communications.

  1. Get feedback from your staff. Top athletes know how important feedback is. That’s why they hire personal coaches. One trick to good communication is to ask your staff person(s) to replay the instruction or goal you just communicated.
  2. Spend quality time assessing your communication in an honest and straight forward manner. One of my CEO’s used to communicate to the employees at the 13th grade level. Many employees were confused because the average successful communication grade level is at the 8th grade level.
  3. Examine your company impartially to learn how their communication affects your staff. The effectiveness of communication should be based upon the company culture. Decide how corporate communication is affecting your team. Is it a positive? Is it causing some problems? Should it be lacking, give some extra effort to improve your personal style.
  4. Work with your staff to create a consensus about how to handle communication issues. Ask, “What everyday information should be available and how should it be shared and communicated?” Or “How do you believe we should handle disagreements?” Staff agreement on these simple issues invariably leads to better communication for all.
  5. Listen, listen, and listen. Learn to be a dedicated listener. There is no better simple tip to become a better communicator than to really listen to the comments from your staff, your peers, and your superiors.

Good communications tends to be more art than science. Your success is often dependent simply on establishing communication lines that are open and honest. Sometimes, even unpopular decisions made by senior management can be expressed in positive and meaningful ways.