“Ninety percent of all management problems are caused by miscommunication.” Dale Carnegie, famed public speaker and author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, understood that clear communication is vital to business success. The ability to communicate effectively is a soft skill in management that requires practice, introspection, and intention, but many business leaders do not dedicate the time or effort needed to develop it. In this article, we cover some basic pointers for improving communication in the workplace, especially with your employees.
Understand the Challenges
Communication involves much more than the words you say; your message is also affected by your pitch, tone, and the other sounds you make around the words. Communication experts also emphasize the tremendous importance of body language, which conveys our personal attitudes and emotions. To put it differently, your words help you deliver information, but your body language exhibits what you feel about the information. There is some disagreement about the precise figure, but experts estimate somewhere between 70 and 90% of all communication is nonverbal.
On the receiving end, your listener’s biases, emotions, and personal interests will affect how they hear your message. Sometimes what we think we are saying does not align at all with what our employees hear, and the emotional cues we unintentionally exhibit through body language can confuse our message. All of this can lead to a misunderstanding of work expectations and assignments. Employees who do not know what is expected of them or do not feel understood will eventually become dissatisfied with their jobs.
Improve Your Listening Skills
In her excellent TED talk “10 ways to have a better conversation,” journalist Celeste Headlee explains how to have conversations where all parties feel engaged and understood. Above all other pointers, she says the most important conversational skill has nothing to do with talking, but rather listening. Good listeners resist the urge to interject opinions, and they do not try to multitask when someone is speaking to them. When seeking information, good listeners ask simple, open-ended questions. This allows people to answer honestly, without feeling like the question is biased in a particular direction. Effective conversationalists also do not lecture, which people find boring and insensitive, and they do not repeat themselves. The majority of a good listener’s energy goes to focusing on what the other person is saying, not on formulating a response and waiting for their turn to speak.
Meet Employees Where They Are
When you do need to deliver information to employees, it is important to understand that all people absorb facts and direction differently. Some employees are visual learners and will best understand information conveyed through images, charts and graphs. Others might prefer written communications which they first review on their own and then ask questions once they have had time to process. Still others will prefer verbal explanations, learning things face to face and having an open discussion. Talk to your employees about their personal learning and communication styles, and if a particular method seems ineffective, try something new. Above all else, strive to improve your own listening skills. Practicing these habits in conversations with employees will foster trust and understanding. Listening well will create a work environment where people are comfortable seeking help and clarification when they need it, and where they feel their opinions and concerns are heard.
From all of us at NiteHawk, we wish you a safe and fun summer. If you have any questions, please contact us at (800) 448-9364 or visit us online at www.nitehawksweepers.com.
Abudi, G. (2013). Managing communications effectively and efficiently. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2013—North America, New Orleans, LA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Headlee, Celeste. (2015). 10 ways to have a better conversation. Ted.com. Available at https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation/up-next#t-46593.
Pease, Allan and Barbara. (2006) The Definitive Book of Body Language. The New York Times. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/books/chapters/0924-1st-peas.html.