Becoming a first time manager is an excellent goal and a great marker in a successful career. However it can also be a daunting task without a few tips to ease you into you new responsibilities. With careful observation, planning and a few pieces of advice, a good manager can become great manager. An important trait many great leaders have is being able to successfully communicate any message to a wide variety of people. They also have the ability to transcend work groups, culture, situations and subject.. Being able to relate to different direct reports is key to opening a two way channel of communication with a group. One of the first layers in successful communication is establishing an environment and culture that encourages it. Allowing open communication amongst each other fosters a cohesive and united environment. A good way a manager can reinforce that notion, would be to serve as the example. Walk around and meet with everyone in the group.
This allows the manager to be accessible to everyone and in turn the manager can get to know the members of his or her group. Another suggestion would be to establish an open door policy. This will allow the flexibility to hold short meetings informally and encourage the flow of communication with each other. A good way to get to know the group better would be to setup a meeting with each individual. This allows a manager to get a back story on each group member, establish preferences in communication and find out if any cultural differences exist. This can also establish trust between a manager and an employee. Scheduling this meeting either bi-weekly or monthly allows the channel of communication between manager and subordinate to remain open. If at all possible, an important element in establishing an open environment is to physically setup the office in a way that allows for easy communication with each other.
Having conference rooms available allows for group meetings and also provides private areas if discussions are of a confidential nature. If allowed, take into consideration the furniture used in the group’s space. Tailor the furniture and office designs to your group’s needs. If possible, equip rooms with teleconference equipment which allows for a virtual face-to-face with others in remote office either across the street or across the country. A second layer of successful communication is the interaction of sender to receiver. When speaking to groups or individuals, a manager should always maintain a steady emotion. Employees can easily misinterpret the mood or content of the message if a manager is either too happy or too sad. A good sense of humor can bring comfort or levity to a group or situation, however caution should be used.
A joke or comment can be misinterpreted easily depending on the audience. A good rule of thumb would be to err on the side of caution until the manager gets to know the group thoroughly. Allowing for questions during or at the end of your message encourages two way communication. This allows the audience the freedom to ask for clarification if something isn’t understood and also provides a venue for discussion. Possible issues can be resolved when more than one point of view are presented.
A manager should also make themselves available after a meeting in case any questions comes up that did not want to be asked in a group setting or is of a confidential nature. The third layer of successful communication involves four elements that affect each other. Content (what is said), Channel (How it’s said), Environment (Where it’s said) and Time (When it’s said). It is important to tailor the content of your message to your audience. The following are short questions that a manager can ask themselves about each element:
What is the message about?
Who is the audience?
What is the tone of the message?
Do you thoroughly know the subject matter?
What level of detail should the message include?
What channels are available? (ex. voicemail, email, public or private meeting)? Will the contents of the message be fully understood using the channel chosen? Will the channel help or hurt if the message has a deadline? Is the channel chosen appropriate for the urgency level of the message? Is the channel chosen appropriate for the tone of the message?
What locations or venues are available?
Is the venue/location chosen appropriate for the message given? (ex. Technically capable)
What setting is fitting for your message (ex. Formal or informal)? Who is the audience?
How large is the audience?
What is the confidentiality of the message?
How urgent is the message?
When is the best time to deliver this message?
Does the message follow a timeline or deadline?
How long should the message take?
Along with these factors to follow, there are some errors to avoid. Focus your message strictly on facts to stay true to the message at hand and avoid “spinning” a message with opinions. Opinions are fine to state when and if asked by the audience, however a message spun on opinion will be evident quickly and can easily lose or disrupt an audience. Do not present the message in a manner that is not subject to change. Messages, like situations, can change at any given moment and may require some clarification. Always prepare with a contingency plan to follow-up with changes if needed. Having prior knowledge of the subject matter will minimize any confusion when presenting the message and will better equip the manager in the event of any questions asked.
The intent of the message can be greatly lost if the presenter looks uncomfortable or lost during the presentation. If at all possible, have someone with knowledge of the subject matter review any notes that will be used, or have them available for any follow-up questions afterwards. When it comes to communicating effectively, there is no “one size, fits all” approach to any message. Each communication instance requires a thorough analysis of all the factors provided and presented accordingly to the audience. Mastering these tips will help on the road to managerial success.
Hynes, Geraldine. Managerial Communication. New York: McGraw Hill, 2011.
Myatt, Mike. “10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders.” Forbes (2012): 12/6/2012 http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/04/04/10-communication-secrets-of-great-leaders/.