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Better Leadership through More Effective Communications
September 2nd, 2010 by Robert Moskowitz  Posted in Career Advice, In the Workplace, Most Popular

Leader and his teamA critical part of leadership is providing feedback that helps the members of your team improve their performance, enthusiasm, and success. While there is much to say about this topic, the single most important thought is to keep your remarks as positive as you can make them.

Here are some specific ideas to help you lead better through more effective communications:

1. Increase Your Frequency Of Communicating

Many leaders “save up” information and then communicate many items to their team members all at once. This may save you time, but it’s two mistakes in one: First, these delays create too large a “communications gap” between you and your team members — a gap that’s nearly impossible to smooth over when you communication so infrequently. Second, it creates extra pressure for you to communicate — and for your team members to absorb — each item of information. When you have a long list of items to cover, you tend to be unwilling to take enough time with any of them.

Lead more effectively by sharing information with your team members as often as you can. For example, you might want to take a minute or two to review each person’s performance each time he or she completes a project or assignment, and to go over goals and challenges with an “all hands” meeting each time the situation changes significantly.

2. Be Certain Before You Communicate

It’s a big mistake to communicate without being sure of your facts. You run the risk not only of making statements you’ll later want to take back, which tends to undermine your credibility two ways: First, any error gives your team a reason not to believe what you say in the future, and second, any error gives you reason to experience a certain hesitancy whenever you communicate in the future, as you’re more cautious about embarrassing yourself again.

You can avoid all this by checking the facts before you communicate.

3. Concentrate on Details

It’s easy to say “Good job today” to someone, but generic remarks like these don’t carry nearly as much weight as something highly specific, like “You juggled your schedule nicely today when you encountered that problem this morning.”

Of course, a specific remark may seem narrower, and thus less important, than a broader, more general one. But its very specificity gives it extra meaning for the person you’re praising.

4. Make Your Feedback Positive

Most people feel a little intimidated when someone in authority observes them as they work. You can make a difficult situation much better by taking a positive tone in your feedback. For example:

Common Way: I notice you’re marking up one report at a time, then keypunching the changes into the system. I thought I told you it’s better to mark up all ten or twelve at once, then do all the keypunching.

Better Way: I can see you’re very good at marking up the reports. I’m just wondering if you’ve tried marking all of them, then doing the keypunching all at once? In my experience, it goes faster with fewer errors that way.

5. Watch Your Pace When Giving Instructions

Simply bombarding people with instructions can generate discomfort, confusion, and even resistance, In general, you’ll get better compliance with your instructions if you open a two way dialog. For example:

Common Way: Those are the seven areas where you need to note a client’s responses, Freda. I hope you can follow my directions on them.

Better Way: There are seven areas where you need to note a client’s responses, Freda. Let’s go over them one at a time, and you pretend you’re teaching me how to handle them. Are you ready to start with the first one?

While there is much more to say about this topic, the most important rule is to keep your remarks as positive and specific as you can make them.
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Tags: boss, leadership, communications
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  • Meredith Lankenau

    Great article! I was happy to see you touched on the idea of positive feedback. When I did restaurant operations, we would refer to it as "3 plusses and a minus". When discussing the minus, I used the idea of "area(s) of opportunity". The long term results were more significant.

  • Tony K davis

    I'll be more specific on the job when giving instructions to people who don't understand me. My problem I've had is paying attention to details.

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