Your team is smart, industrious and always seems to know exactly what you want when you want it.
But if you get complacent, you might start under-communicating. And that could spell trouble.
It’s a plus that your employees anticipate problems and get things done without hand-holding. But just because they don’t need constant direction doesn’t mean they can get by without your input.
Leadership coach Scott Mabry writes that managers fall into the trap of treating good employees like psychics who can read their minds.
“They believe the team is always [magically] on the same wavelength,” Mabry says. “They think, ‘It’s obvious to me, so [it’s] obvious to everyone else?’ Or, ‘We discussed it so I thought we were all on the same page.’”
Problem is, the gap between what we think people understand and what is really going on in their minds is almost always much wider than we assume.
Why We Under-Communicate
Managers sometimes under-communicate because they don’t want to seem demanding or because they think they’re communicating well enough already, says John Brandon, co-editor at Inc.com.
But it takes dedication to successfully communicate, he says. “You have to be intentional about it, explaining things with just the right amount of detail . . . You have to ask employees: ‘Do you get it? Is it clear?’”
Be mindful of these approaches when you communicate with your team:
Spell Things O-U-T
This is about being as clear as possible about directives and the steps required to do them.
Explain in a way that’s clear and makes sense. Then stick with the employee (or your team) throughout the process and make sure he or she fully understands what to do.
To that end, ask pointed questions to make sure your employees really get what you’re saying. It’s important to ask, “Do you get where I’m going with this? Am I making sense?” This shows you’re concerned that they understand you.
Process Is Important
Understanding process is boring but necessary. Until your team starts to manage projects by themselves, without needing your direct involvement, they could be unsure of the measures to use and what’s expected.
Don’t simply assume that because they’ve been told what the process or proper procedures are that they understand how and when to undertake them. Ask open-ended questions to get them to tell you directly how they’d go about doing a certain task.
Be Kind And Remind
Quality employees love reminders, despite what you might think. It shows you’re interested in what they might think you see as “drudge work,” and it reinforces your trust in them to get things done well.
Reminders are a sign of willing leadership. If you don’t keep upping the ante of growth and achievement in your employees, they’ll begin to feel adrift and directionless.
Your employees know that nudging them along is your job. It shows you’re invested when you prompt them regularly and listen when they communicate problems or needs.
Otherwise, they could interpret your lack of communication with disinterest and go against your original guidance – which could lead to bad results.
Keep Things Simple
Your team doesn’t need a lot of mumbo-jumbo corporate speak to get the picture, says Mabry. Stick to information that is short, sweet and memorable, so you don’t get a ton of “explain-this-again?” questions later.
Communicate in the same way that you’d want to read important instructions. Rather than a windy narrative, use specific bullet points, illustrative anecdotes and Q&As where you can.
It doesn’t hurt to be a little creative too. Use a variety of ways to get your points across, such as charts, graphics, data and others.
Communication breakdowns more often than not are the result of bad back-and-forth discourse – and this could be disastrous to any team or project.
The only true way to know that your team is really processing what you’re telling them is to hear it back from their point of view. You might be explaining the goals of a project or the ends you want to be achieved, but ineffectively communicating the steps they need to get there.
If it takes too long for employees to grasp what needs to be done and what’s at stake, you haven’t done your communicating clearly enough, and you may end up with eager but confused employees.
When effectively communicating new and important information, your team will appreciate you erring on the side of excess in the long run.
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