Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I'm the Manager...Why won't they listen to me?

by Narmeen Iqbal and Robyn Hatcher

Since, I (Narmeen) am going to business school in January I thought it will be great idea to write a blog about effective communication skills as a future manager.

Communications skills are extremely important in any role in our lives whether it is as personal or professional level. Effective communication skills are essential for being a good manager. Within communications there are many sub-categories but I will focus on the category of oral communication with employees. The most important role for a manger is the ability to get his or her point across effectively.
Here are 3 tips to help managers achieve that:

Be Clear: Be very clear about what message you want your employees to know. Sometimes we are unsure of what message we want to relate. The best thing is to gather your own thoughts first. For some people it helps to write them down.

I always tell my clients to figure out their bottom line in any important communication. To figure out your bottom line, ask yourself this question: “If my listener remembers just one thing, what do I want them to remember.” That “one thing” is probably your bottom line.  You can then shape the rest of the communication around that bottom line. (I suggest using a mind map) It also helps to use the finding the bottom line question in your communication. “If you remember one thing today…” Saying that, improves the chances of that one thing being remembered.

2) Be an active listener: Sometimes we think we already know what someone else is going to say but we may let our own judgments get in the way of listening to what’s really being said. Listen carefully and actively to your employees.

People will talk 3x as long if you nod while you’re listening to them. So, if you want your employees to really share what’s on their minds, nod in sets of three while you listen. It’s also helpful to show that you have heard someone by using reflective listening, paraphrase (NOT parrot) what you heard them say. “So if I’m understanding you correctly you want to…”  “Okay so what I hear you saying is that …” This makes the person feel heard and gives them an opportunity to clear up anything you may have misunderstood or misinterpreted.

3) Watch your tone: What you say is not as important as how you say it. According to communication research by Professor Albert  Mehrabian, 38% of the oral communication depends on sound of our voice. For example if a manager was providing positive feedback to an employee but used a tone of voice that did not sound positive or was in some other way not consistent with the words he or she uses  this could lead to communicating mixed signals to that employee.

Two tonal issues related to managers that have come up with clients are: 1) Asking instead of telling. Meaning they use upspeak (making everything sound like a question) when they are trying to say something important and be taken seriously. 2) They use the same rushed, staccato and/or sometimes monotone rhythm they use for giving orders or direction when they say something supportive or positive. Employees will respond to the tone, before the words.

Using the 3 tips mentioned above, managers can drastically improve their communication skills. (And improve the odds of their being listened to) 

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