In a management position, it’s easy to get cut off or distanced from the people working on the “ground floor” of your operation, so to speak. One of the side effects of this disconnect is that communication breakdowns can form when employees don’t readily come to you, or don’t know that they can come to you, with their questions and concerns. It isn’t even something in particular that you’ve done, in most cases it’s the things you haven’t done to actively create open channels of communication that cause problems. In this blog post, we’re going to go over five different ways that you can become an effective leader to your employees. Effective communication is especially important in other aspects of running your business, such as safety and incident reporting, as well.
1. Make The Effort
Because of the discrepancy in power between a boss and a worker, responsibility usually falls to the higher ups to begin communication. Remember that special someone in high school you wanted to ask to the dance but were too afraid to ask? The same situation applies in the work place – nothing will happen until you make your move. You need to reach out to employees and start conversations with them regularly. There is no faster way to open up a regular dialogue with someone than becoming a positive part of their everyday life and interactions. Ask how people are doing, be genuine in your conversations and show an interest; this only takes a few minutes from your day.
2. Just Ask
One of the easiest ways to feel out how communication is going or why certain problems might be arising is to simply ask around. When talking to employees, don’t be afraid to ask them what they think of you and management. Tell them you would appreciate candor and honesty, and are sincerely interested in what could be done to improve. Having these conversations directly and taking notes is preferable to using a suggestion or comment box (which defeats the purpose of fostering face-to-face interactions).
3. Think About How You Communicate
When we say things, our body language and facial expressions are also telling a story. In most cases, if we’re being truthful, body language and the words we’re saying match up. In other cases, especially when a situation is new or awkward, we might find these two things at odds, which can make for confusing or insincere communication. In manager/employee interactions, you might be communicating verbally that you’re open to suggestions, but standing leaned back and with your arms crossed, indicators that you’re standoff-ish, uncomfortable, and uninterested. Keep yourself in an open stance and use your body language to convey your message as well as what you’re saying.
4. Make a Public Declaration!
Alright, maybe that sounds a bit dramatic. But what I’m saying is that you should make it known to those that you talk to that your goal is a more open environment where employees can come to you with any questions, comments, or concerns they have at any given time. While asking what people currently think of you is one step, it’s another to let them know “hey, thank you for that feedback, it will really help me because I want to make sure I’m approachable to everyone going forward.”
5. Have a Plan
Just like anything you want to properly implement, you need to have a plan written down so that you don’t just kind of do things “here and there” – which usually translates to never fully getting anything done. Figure out how many new conversations you want to have each day, who you will check in with, when you will do it, etc.