December’s pace, for many of us, is a bit slower (thank goodness). That affords us the opportunity to take a breath, relax a bit, and think. Thinking is something that is critically important for managers to be able to do. However, tasks get in the way and there is never enough time to strategize, plan, and think about what needs to be done and how best to do it.
In a previous post, I encouraged all you managers out there to spend some time reflecting on the year that is ending. In particular, I suggested reflecting on how well communication flowed among your team members, your company, and even with your customers. I offered up some questions to get the reflection under way, including:
· What topics have you been avoiding?
· Who are you avoiding talking to?
· What have you learned about your team members this year? Who do you wish you knew better?
· How have your communication habits helped (or hindered) your team’s progress?
Luckily, reflection is generally a solo activity, and the only judgements imposed are those you make for yourself. It’s an opportunity to take an honest, soul-baring look at how you’ve performed communication-wise throughout the year. So, ask yourself the tough questions and take note of what you learn. Use the knowledge you gain, about yourself and about your team, department, and company practices, to guide yourself in the next step—making a plan to do better in the new year.
Why should you make communication a priority? Good communication boosts morale, leads to better team-building and collaboration and, in the process, increases innovation and creativity. All of this will, of course, lead to better productivity and efficiency.
It’s clear improving communication flow in your team will lead to big benefits. Now that you’ve reflected on what you’ve done well, and what you could stand to work on, make a plan for next year. Here are some ideas to get you going:
1. Create a communication strategy. Think about all the ways you communicate (or should communicate) with the people you work with. This should include your team members, colleagues in other departments, your boss, your suppliers, and, of course, your customers.
Begin by taking an honest look at where you are now. This is what you’ve been reflecting on, so you should have a good idea of where you’re currently at with communicating with your team, colleagues, boss, customers, and even friends and family.
Set your communication goals based on what’s most important to you and to your team. What messages must be conveyed to them this upcoming week/month/quarter/year? What changes do you wish to incorporate into how you communicate with them? From this analysis will arise priority issues that your planning should focus on.
Define what you want to achieve and clearly plan how to address this. Hold yourself accountable.
Plan things out and work the plan. This is how you will achieve your goal, and you’ve already identified it’s important. So determine how you will allocate your time and other resources to ensure you communicate frequently. Plot items into your calendar now to prevent other things from crowding into that space.
2. 52% of people surveyed said they would have stayed in their job longer had they had a meaningful conversation with their manager within the last 3 months of their employment. What they are looking for is a real talk, not just a regurgitation of the task list. You don’t have to ask all the perfect questions—just show an interest. That’s what is really meaningful to your reports. So, plan out some questions that will demonstrate you care about what’s going on in their world. If it’s helpful, use the template I created for One-On-One Conversations.
3. Remember—the people who report to you are internal customers. You would never choose to ignore your customers, so why would you do that to your reports? Your strategy must incorporate a plan to communicate often and well with those who work on your team.
4. Review, revise, and refine your plan at least once per quarter. Just as with any other strategic planning, you have to account for what you’ve learned along the way.
Planning is a wonderful thing that can help propel you to the next level. Planning for more effective communication can help you achieve the kinds of relationships with your team members that will boost productivity, increase engagement, and encourage people to do great work. If you’d like more information about this topic, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m passionate about employee engagement and firmly believe it stems from quality manager-employee relationships. And I’m always happy to help.
Laura Sukorokoff is the Founder of C-Change Learning and Development and the author of It’s Not Them, It’s You: Why employees “break up” with their managers and what to do about it (due to be released Q1 2020). She makes it her mission to guide managers in their efforts to create people-centered workplaces. Reach out to Laura for help with developing your managerial skill set, and for soft-skills training for your team. Learn more at www.cchangelearning.com.