Communications are a critical aspect of every manager’s role. Successful growth and many performance management processes involve feedback situations. The need is for timely, objective and specific feedback to reinforce good performance and to correct problems before they become bad habits. These discussions require specific skills including good communications, active listening, coaching and counseling.

The Supervisor as Communicator

Communicating is a basic function underlying most of your management activities. You have four primary audiences: higher management – if you are not the founder, your peers, your staff, and those outside the organization.

Higher management should be informed of:

  • problems or difficulties in achieving your goals
  • suggestions for improving operations in your unit
  • praiseworthy performance of your staff

Your peers need to know things which help coordination or impact their work:

  • problems or difficulties which hinder their effectiveness
  • progress or data which assists their planning
  • suggestions for resolving common problems

Your staff must know your expectations and objectives:

  • role of the work unit and how it fits into larger picture
  • goals and objectives of the unit
  • work unit performance – achievements and issues
  • feedback on personal performance

Persons outside the company may also need to be communicated with to:

  • explain the contribution of your work unit to their needs
  • describe company actions, policies, or plans
  • respond to questions or criticisms

As a manager, a prime function is to get things done through people. Your ideas become effective only as they are communicated to others and thus achieve the desired actions. Employees’ ideas and suggestions are also vital to your success as an organization. Thus your communications need to be designed to encourage understanding and willingness to contribute. You communicate with words, attitudes, and actions. How well you manage depends on how well you communicate in that broad sense.

“Top Ten” Communications Tips

10. Clarify your ideas before communicating.
Consider the goals and attitudes of those who will receive the communication as well as any others who will be affected by it.

9. Examine the true purpose of each communication.
What do you really want to accomplish? The more sharply targeted the message, the greater its chance of success. Don’t try to accomplish too much with one communication.

8. Consider the total setting or aspects of the communication.
Meaning and intent are conveyed by other factors such as timing, precedents, physical setting, relationships, and your personality.

7. Consult with others as appropriate
Others can help you with additional information or insights. And, those who help you plan a communication are more likely to provide active support.

6. Consider the overtones of your basic message
Your tone of voice, your expression, your writing style, your apparent receptiveness to other’s input all influence the reception of your message.

5. Convey something of value to the receiver
Consider the receiver’s needs and interests and offer something which responds to those to increase receptivity.

4. Follow up
Ask questions. Encourage responses and reactions. Get and give feedback. Check on performance of the receiver to verify understanding and action.

3. Remember both the short and long term
Most communications are directed at immediate needs; but, they must be consistent with longer term goals and needs to be effective.

2. Actions speak louder than words
The cliche is based on reality – when someone’s actions or behavior contradicts what s/he says, we tend to discount the words.

1. Be a good listener
The hardest work often is to listen actively and to understand implicit as well as explicit meanings and unspoken reactions.

Active Listening skills

Actively listening to another person is very hard work. Often one is thinking of other issues, mentally arguing with the speaker, or planning one’s own response. When interviewing, coaching or counseling a person, you must work hard to listen to what they say and to understand it. Effective listeners pay attention to the other person’s behaviors and visual clues as well as their words.

Want an example? Take the phrase “you do that” and say it out loud as many different ways as you can. The words stay the same but the meaning can change from a simple request to an angry outburst or a sarcastic comment as your voice level, talking speed, and body language change.

Active listening also includes:

  • asking open-ended questions to get more information
  • offering verbal encouragement to the speaker such as an “uh-huh” or “tell me more”
  • repeating information back to see if you understood correctly
  • rephrasing emotional comments in a more neutral language, especially in cases where you or the other person is defensive
  • helping the person get to the point or stick to it with comments such as “I think I understand that part, now is there anything else?”
  • not arguing with the person’s perceptions and not interjecting your own until you have understood the person.

Good listening skills also include setting the conditions to hear the person. Good listeners move important or feedback sessions into a private room and close the door against interruptions. They schedule time in advance for important discussions. They clear their own mind of distractions as well as turning off their phone. They pay attention and show it. If necessary, they take notes to help remember details and they tell the other person why.

The smartest thing you can learn to do well is to be a great communicator. What do you need to improve?