One common mistake made by managers is a belief that they are communicating well. A frequent cry amongst managers and senior personnel in companies large and small is the fact that they have told a colleague to do something ‘time and time again’ to no avail. In these cases, where does the problem lie – with the colleague who has been told something numerous times yet still doesn’t ‘get’ it, or with the manager who is obviously failing to communicate the message?

While it is all too easy to blame the colleague for not paying attention or willfully failing to do something, perhaps the manager ought to take a look at how the message is communicated. Is the problem more about the communication of a message rather than the actual message itself?

Communicating is Much More than Just Telling Someone What to Do

Remember the Benefits

As any salesperson is taught – always sell benefits and don’t sell features. The same principle applies when communicating a message – don’t just ‘tell’ features, sell the benefits. An employee is much more likely to take on board the fact that there is a reason why they are being asked to do something, particularly if there is a longer term benefit to themselves. Therefore just telling someone to “put papers in that bin” is likely to mean a lot less than the message “if you put the used fax paper in the recycle bin we end up saving money at the end of the year which is put towards the office party”.

Is the Message Clear

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Managers and senior personnel who excel in their jobs and have many years of sound experience behind them often forget that the jargon that they share together just sounds like ancient Greek to everyone else. An employee may sometimes feel intimidated and a little dumb if they have to ask what is meant by the latest three-letter acronym or management buzz words. Therefore instead of saying that they don’t understand what is being said, they may just nod and hope for the best. Communicating in jargon-free language is essential to ensure that a message gets across loudly and clearly.

Take Time

This may sound obvious, however, it is surprising how many crucial messages are passed onto staff at the water cooler or while passing each other in the corridor. While this might work in some situations it does have some definite drawbacks. When a meeting is arranged people attend the meeting armed with both the correct mindset and a pen and paper, or when an email is sent time has been spent (hopefully) succinctly outlining all the salient points. At the water cooler or elsewhere an employee is being caught unawares and unprepared. The fact that time is not taken out to communicate a message properly also devalues the message.

Great communication helps to share a message in a way that is easily understood by all and is an important management skill.