What leaders need to be communicating to their workforce

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Ask any worker in corporate America and most will tell you: business leaders could be communicating more effectively with their workforce. Data collected in an Interact/Harris poll shows that most leaders aren’t engaging in crucial communication moments that could help establish trust.

In fact, 91% of employees who responded to the poll said communication issues drag executives down. Instead of using effective communication strategies, leaders often display a lack of emotional intelligence by micromanaging, being indecisive, and attempting to hide their mistakes. By comparison, effective leaders are intentional about communicating with their workforce. Here are 5 ways leaders can communicate that effectively engage employees:

Set a clear direction

Autonomy means employees are allowed to use their unique skills to accomplish tasks without being micromanaged. It doesn’t mean not setting clear directions or never checking in with staff. A fear of micromanagement or the perception of being an “order giver” can prevent leaders from setting clear guidelines. But when you set direction, you provide employees with context and guidelines so they feel confident to conduct their work in a manner that suits them and also achieves the desired result.

An example of not setting direction would be: “Review the past month’s data and let me know what you think.” Instead, if you want to set the direction you might say, “We didn’t hit our targets last month. Please review the past month’s data to look for any negative variance to plan. On Friday, let’s meet so you can share those variances as well as your recommendation for how we can address them.” Try this: When you set direction, be sure you provide situational context as well as your expectations for the employee related to the desired outcome.

Make time to talk

“Can’t talk right now, I’ll check in with you later!” This is a common phrase heard by employees trying to have a conversation with their manager or leader. Certainly people are entitled to be too busy to talk; however, if you don’t have time at that moment, you need to follow-up and make time later. Try this: Instead of saying you’ll check in later, tell the employee you will make time to talk soon. Invite the employee to schedule time on your calendar so you can sit down and discuss what’s on their mind.

Offer constructive feedback

Research shows that when we don’t receive feedback at work, we not only become nervous and distrustful, we’re also less productive. This makes it critical that leaders provide feedback. Perhaps the previous method of managing performance, where feedback was collected for 365 days and then dumped on employees once a year, is to blame for leaders’ reluctance to provide feedback. No one likes being on the giving—or receiving—end of a feedback deluge. But now that companies are focused on giving immediate, timely feedback to employees, leaders can embrace a more nimble approach that makes providing constructive feedback less daunting. Try this: Start a conversation by saying, “Here’s what you’re doing well, and I also have some feedback about an area I’d like you to address.”

Interact with employees at all levels

A leader who sits in an ivory tower will never be able to communicate with employees or earn their trust. Leaders must work alongside their team and interact with people, regardless of their level. This makes the leader more approachable and will expose them to a variety of viewpoints about how the business operates.

Try this: Set up round-table discussions on a quarterly basis where you can ask employees questions and gather feedback, and hear what matters most to them. And, if possible, don’t wait for those discussions—get out of your office and enjoy some casual conversations with employees at least once or twice a month.

Speak the truth

Engaged employees know what’s happening within the organization, and they’re especially aware of anything that may impact their jobs and their future. Of course, leaders can’t share every detail of what’s happening, but they need to speak the truth if they want to maintain a healthy approach to communicating with employees.

Try this: Tell employees you will share all the details you can with them, and if there are details you can’t share, let them know when you anticipate they’ll have access to that information. Effective leaders know that healthy communication requires a desire to connect.

Leaders who are intentional about building a sense of connectedness with their teams, by communicating and establishing meaningful connections, will not only feel better about their leadership skills, they’ll also see a positive impact on the personal and professional results they’re able to achieve.

This article first appeared on Appreciation Blog.