Five Tips for Fostering Effective Communication
Last week, we wrote about the importance of body language as communication means more than just speaking and listening.
Body language is just as critical to your communication as speaking, writing, or listening, and leaders who use their body language wisely can reap the benefits of a much more engaged and productive workforce.
This week, we are staying focused on the topic of communication as high levels of employee engagement are not possible without effective communication in the workplace.
Here are five simple tips that foster more effective communication in the workplace (in person and virtual).
#1 – Don't Tell People What to Do – Engage Them
As a leader in your organization, effective communication in the workplace starts with you. With this in mind, leverage your interactions with your people as opportunities to truly engage them instead of simply telling them what to do. If an employee has a question, don't just answer it. Ask empowering questions that enable people to think for themselves and learn more about why the employee requires assistance. You'll learn more about your people this way, plus you will set a terrific example of leadership and effective communication.
#2 – Show Your People You Understand
Communicating effectively is more than just saying the right things at the right times. It's also about listening attentively and showing a genuine interest in the conversation by providing 100% of your attention on the other person or people. Your people want more than acknowledgement from you. They want to know that you truly understand them and their perspectives. That's why you should take time to not only respond to your people, but to also show them that you've been listening and understand their views and opinions. For example, paraphrase or test understanding to show that you have understood what the other person has said, “So what I hear your saying is...” or "so, in your opinion we should…” This shows the other person that you are attentively listening and care about their perspective.
#3 – Address Misunderstandings Immediately
Misunderstandings can often be perceived as harmless, but they can also be powerful enough to throw an organization off the proper course. When communication is effective in the workplace, misunderstandings decrease by a meaningful margin; however, it is how you deal with misunderstandings when they happen that really matters.
To deal with what may be a simple misunderstanding we must seek to understand and gain clarity before casting judgment or becoming defensive and potentially emotional. Doing so improves overall communication, plus it also gives you an opportunity to set a positive example. One effective way to deal with a misunderstanding is to not jump to negative conclusions and to keep an open mind to the possibility that what you heard or think may be wrong and can be explained by quickly seeking clarification.
#4 – Improve Clarity in Meetings
How many times have you been to a meeting where the purpose and desired outcome was unclear? Meetings are essential to gather different perspectives and align people to a common purpose, but they need to be managed in a way that supports effective communication.
Make your meetings count by ensuring that the purpose and end goal is clear. At the end of each meeting, spend time summarizing what you've discussed. Bring your less vocal people into the fold early so that their ideas are being heard. Make sure everyone understands not only what needs to be done, but also who is accountable for each take away item and by what timeline. To increase engagement, reiterate that you will make yourself available should they require your help along the way as it is critical to ensure everyone walks away with a common understanding and action plan.
#5 – Don't Shut People Out
Whether it's in meetings or within other types of organizational interactions, people need to be heard and acknowledged. It's easy for business leaders to dismiss ideas that don't strike them immediately as brilliant, but they need to understand that there's a person behind every idea. Dismissing ideas outright because you don't agree with them only serves to shut your people out, making them unwilling to share their ideas in the future.
Instead of dismissing ideas, acknowledge them and ask how they envision bringing that to life and elaborate on the value they believe will come from the idea. Get as much insight as you can before you decide to dismiss it or disagree. Even the most far-fetched ideas can contain kernels of amazing value. When someone is confident enough to communicate an idea, you're headed in the right direction when it comes to effective communication in the workplace. It's up to you to show that you're listening and ready to engage in a meaningful way. It is okay to disagree, but we encourage you to do so in a constructive manner vs. just shutting people down.
These five tips aren't going to transform your organization overnight, but they'll help you improve communication in meaningful ways that foster employee engagement, and with time and practice, may translate into improvements in your bottom line. Of course, each organization is different, so what might make a huge impact with company "A" might be less impactful for company "B". Ultimately, it's up to you as a leader to recognize the effectiveness of communication within your company, and to set the tone that will help you drive the results you desire to achieve.
More Ways to Foster Effective Communication
Do you have any additional ideas for fostering effective communication in the workplace? Have you tried any of the approaches that we've recommended? I’d be happy to talk with you about how you can reimagine effective communication in your organization.
You can email me at email@example.com or contact me at 1-855-871-3374. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!