The ability to effectively communicate is a requisite requirement for supervisors. Unfortunately, it’s an area where many struggle and most could benefit from learning and development opportunities. In this SoS short episode, we distinguish the differences between communication and effective communication. More importantly, we provide 5 recommendations for ways supervisors can communicate more effectively.
1. Clarify points to be made.
Before communicating with others, take the time needed to clarify desired outcomes. Is it to inform, seek input, or to initiate action? When possible, develop a summarized listing of points to be made that aligns with your intended outcomes. Communication strategies must be built around these points.
2. Consider your audience a recipient.
Years ago, when I first got out of college, I was assigned to a construction project working for DuPont. I heard the term "cherry picker" used in reference to an aerial personnel lift. I had no clue what it meant, but I was reluctant to admit it out of fear of embarrassment. Consider the level of experience, background, and needs of those you'll be addressing. This is especially important for new employees. Avoid using jargon, acronyms, and industry slang, as it can and often does lead to confusion.
3. Determine the best mode of communication.
As they say in fly fishing, "you have to match the hatch" or in the context of our topic - use the method most fitting for the message. When possible communicate verbally one-on-one. If unable to do so, communicate in small groups where dialogue and collaboration can take place. As a last resort, use written communication to share information with employees. Bear in mind that nonverbal cues are very important in the communication process. Those cues don't convey in writing.
4. Consider communication styles and preferences.
Borrowing from the "match the hatch" comment, use the communication style most preferred when engaging with employees. As a supervisor, it's important that you get to know your employees. A benefit of doing so involves a better understanding of how to connect with them most effectively on an individual basis. Some employees want facts and data, while others are moved by anecdotal stories and experiences. Communication styles and preferences of direct reports vary and is an important consideration you should take into account - especially when follow up action is needed or performance outcomes are critical.
5. Verify understanding.
Of all the things that you can do to improve communication skills, few are more effective than steps taken to ensure understanding. Asking employees if you've overlooked anything, or if they have any suggestions to improve upon your communication will certainly help. Another technique worth consideration is to have employees play back in their own words what they heard you say. If you do this often, you'll be surprised at just how often confusion exists, where clarity of understanding was presumed.