By Leon Gettler
Good managers need know how to communicate and get the message across. Without good communication, managers fail to gain commitment from employees. They can also fail to achieve business goals and they can forget about developing rapport with the people on their team. In short, they can fail as leaders no matter how good their intentions may be. The problem is communication skills are not usually taught. And managers often make big mistakes.
Harvard Business School professor Boris Grosyberg says managers who don’t know how to communicate are sowing the seeds of disaster.
“Every leader keenly understands the consequences of taking a lax approach to financial management. And most leaders today recognise how dangerous it can be to take a lax approach to people management. But how many leaders appreciate the risks that come with taking a lax approach to communication management — with failing to manage the way that ideas and information flows within their organisation?
“Those leaders who do effectively manage the flow of information within their company tend to share a certain outlook — and a certain set of practices. They adopt communication methods that enable them to get closer to employees. They put in place communication systems that promote dialogue, as opposed to monologue. They engage employees by allowing them to become active participants in the communication process. They rigorously pursue an agenda that aligns their communication efforts with organisational strategy.”
According to Mind Tools, the biggest communication mistakes managers make include lack of feedback, not making time, being too hands off, being too friendly and not getting the balance right between being a friend and being the boss. They can also fail to define goals, misunderstand what truly motivates the team and make the mistake of assuming people are only working for monetary reward. Other mistakes include not not delegating and misunderstanding the role that managers play.
Psychologist Ronald Riggio at Psychology Today says sometimes managers just don’t communicate enough.
“Bosses believe that employees already know more than they do, or they believe that there is certain information that employees don’t need to, or don’t want to, know,’’ Riggio says. “Leaders should constantly remind employees about the company’s mission, direction, and plans. It will impress upon everyone the importance of the information and will help develop the culture of openness and trust.”
He also reminds us that a punitive sort of work environment, the sort of place where employees are punished or reprimanded openly when they make a mistake, inhibits communication and makes employees defensive which in turn stifles creativity.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review consultant Stever Robbins says managers can make the mistake of lying, or telling only partial truths, ignoring the realities of power and just assuming that problems won’t be filtered and softened as they ascend the corporate hierarchy. They can also strike problems when they under-estimate people’s intelligence, and use inappropriate forms of communication.
He writes: “E-mail is great for conveying information, but don’t use it for emotional issues; e-mail messages are too easy to misconstrue. If you’re squirming while reading an e-mail, leave your computer and deal with the situation in person or by telephone. At the same time, phone calls and face-to-face meetings are inefficient ways to disseminate information, but great for discussing nuanced issues.”