“I have a good relationship with the people who are on my team; my door is always open for a chat or to help them solve problems” Sounds pretty good; but when we talk to staff we find another perspective. While we can be friendly and get along with the people who report to us, this does not necessarily imply that we are effectively communicating with them as their manager. Do we really have a productive working relationship that allows us to positively address day to day issues?
Often the first skill we seek to develop in a new manager is their emotional intelligence; self-awareness and the ability to recognise other people’s patterns allow managers to adjust the way they communicate. “It’s not what you say sometimes but how you say it.”
Without advanced communication skills, how can we manage people? Reaching mutual agreements on tasks, projects or different components of a job role requires a collaborative and open communication style as well as one that seeks specific actions from others. Monitoring those agreements without micro-managing requires different styles and approaches for each team member to feel supported. And effective feedback that recognises as well as corrects performance needs to be objective, timely and frequent. Communication skills are crucial and flexibility and collaboration are central to these.
Task clarity is a common complaint from staff who are challenged by shifting priorities and reactive environments; while some roles will always have these challenges, managers need to recognise the need for increased communication as a result. Coaching staff members also requires an effective two-way conversation and a relationship based on achievement of agreed action steps. And conflict resolution that nips problems early in the bud prevents problems from festering and performance issues to set in. So, managers must be pro-active in their communication and understand how to speak with assertiveness (not aggression) for clarity and individual performance development. We can’t just sit in our office with the door open and assume the staff will come to us (passive).
Continual improvement as well as creativity and innovation often result from a team leader engaging their team members in challenging questions. Problem-solving increasingly is a collaborative effort rather than the ‘manager having all the answers’. In fact, the less the manager has the answers the more the staff take responsibility and develop; the manager plays the role of facilitator rather than problem-collector. Facilitation is another communication skill for managers.
Ultimately, people managers need to develop productive working relationships with their team members to achieve operational objectives, to develop and support each individual, to pro-actively provide feedback and address conflicts, and to continually improve. Developing advanced communication skills and reflecting before ‘diving into situations’ are two keys to effective people management. Managers need to demonstrate emotional intelligence across a range of people management practices to show consistency and to effectively connect with everyone on the team.
“Don’t we always need to work on our communication skills?’