Interpersonal communication, either face-to-face or over the phone, is the most frequent communication methods most people use at work. This could be communicating with your employees, co-managers, other department personnel, your boss, upper-management, and customers. How you handle yourself during these conversations are important in how you are looked at as a manager and leader. You can also usually get what you want by communicating correctly.
Here are nineteen valuable tips to incorporate into your management and leadership interpersonal communication skills. Even though some of these tips were mentioned in lesson 1 regarding leadership, they are worth mentioning again as they directly pertain to verbal communication:
1. Have an “open door” policy. Your employees need to know that they can talk to you at any time. You need to have this open door policy no matter the person or issue. Whenever an employee approaches you, you always have to be ready to feel sympathetic and show you care. Here are some points to keep in mind when you are approached by an employee:
· Listen to what they need from you, and show them that you are willing to help. It might be about money, a conflict with another employee, or a personal issue.
· No matter the situation, make sure they know you are listening and fully comprehending the conversation.
· If you are in the middle of something important or on your way to a meeting, politely let them know that you have another appointment and re-schedule a time to resume the conversation. If it is an urgent matter, if possible drop all that you are doing and give your full-undivided attention. If you have to cancel the meeting due to the serious nature of the situation, people will understand, and in fact admire your decision.
· You don’t necessarily need to come up with any magic solution at the time during the discussion, just make sure you get back with them as soon as possible with some kind of an idea on how to improve the situation.
· Even if the answer is not what they want to hear, they will at least know you tried and took there concerns seriously.
· Most of the time when employees are expressing concerns, it is just an opportunity to let them vent. You will however come out looking good as you did not shrug it off or made them feel stupid for talking to you in the first place.
· Do not work on e-mail or answer a call unless absolutely necessary. If you need to interrupt them, make sure you let them know the urgency of the immediate situation. You can ask if they would like to wait a few minutes, or come back in 15 minutes or so.
· If this person is a constant bother to you by continually complaining, then you will at one point need to make sure that you let them know that these continuous problems need to stop. You will have to draw the line at some point. You might suggest a meeting with human resources, which might scare them off in presenting future complaints, as they will be seen as a complainer.
2. Be flexible and approachable. Being laid back and approachable, while at the same time showing you have a desired commitment to achieve results, is truly a successful combination. Employees will want to communicate with you. Here are some points to keep in mind to show your approachability:
· Do not come across like an unreasonable, mean, or sarcastic person. Intimidation might seem like it gives you more power, but it backfires most of the time. You will lose respect. People will pretend to like you, but secretly they will hate you and will leave the first chance they can get.
· Humble yourself, but with honor, and you will get the best out of your staff, which will only make your job easier.
· Be nice, open to new ideas (even if you know within the first few seconds that it will never work), and show flexibility. Even the smallest gesture will look big in your employee’s eyes. Remember the old saying, “You catch more fly’s with honey than with vinegar.” You will get more out of your employees just by communicating nicely.
3. Be open and honest. Be yourself and act genuine. Don’t play the role like you are the superior manager, but always maintain a professional persona. Let your employees know what’s going on inside your head. People deal with situations, good or bad, when they feel you are being honest in a professional, yet personable way. People also trust those who are open and honest with them. You should encourage input and opinions, and be open for debate.
4. Be absolutely clear when speaking and giving directions. Don’t try and blind people with science by using acronyms they do not know, or use confusing jargon. It will just make it look like you are trying to show off. Your goal is to de-mystify, not mystify. Mistakes from your employees could be because you did not provide the clear direction needed. Your goal, when communicating, is to simply make sure everyone understands the subject at hand, and understands exactly what it is you’re saying. Speak in brief simple terms. They just might finally understand something they always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask…
5. Listen more than talk. You’ll earn a great deal of respect and credibility by actively listening. Let them share their passion first, and then you can interject when the time is right. Show them you're interested in what they have to say by using positive body language. Asking short questions about the subject, and letting them answer at great length, also shows that you are interested in their comments.
6. Listen with your full attention. Know exactly what your employees need from you. If you can help fix the situation and give advise, do so. There might be times, however, when the employee just needs a listening ear. Your best approach is to listen deeply, ask questions for clarification to make sure you understand the situation, and then ask the person what they would like from you. Most of the time they realize there is nothing you can do, but they are just happy to get it off of their chest. They will most likely thank you for listening.
7. Now make sure your employees listen to you. If they are not listening, and do not hear what you are saying, they will not follow. If they are not following, then you are not leading. You need to establish the fact that when you talk, you expect their full-undivided attention. If you are losing their attention, stop what you are doing or saying, and let them know you need them to focus on what is being said or shown. It doesn’t have to be awkward, just say it as a matter of fact, in a normal tone of voice, and get back to business. Once it has been established that you will not tolerate being ignored, it will stop happening.
8. Be straightforward and always look them straight in the eyes. People like an honest answer from someone they trust (even when you do not know the answer). This goes for dealing with your employees to dealing with upper management.
9. Use the art of persuasion. Although you might have effective open communication with your team, you still might find yourself needing to sell the new task or project. You will need to know what makes your team tick in order to know how to best persuade them that the new project is a good thing. Use your charm and positive personality to help communicate the need to meet new goals.
10. Always bite your tongue, before you say something you might regret. All of the respect you have gained can be lost in a single word you say. Think about what you are going to say before you say it, especially if it is during a heated conversation.
11. Be able to take criticism. Your actions when being criticized tell a lot about your strength in management. If they are good points, be sure to acknowledge and address them in a professional, and even thankful manner. If they are bad points, be sure to calmly state your objections and ensure them that you will take their suggestions into consideration. Make sure you do not come across as sounding sarcastic.
12. Don’t be Defensive. You should not take a suggestion you do not like, or performance related comment, too personally. Calmly reply, without excuses, that you will look into the suggestion, or how you can improve the performance related issues. This is not to say that you should not debate a point, just don’t be defensive.
13. Don’t lose your temper. When you lose your temper, you lose respect. You can show that you are serious about something by being a little more stern and direct, but never blow your top. Have an indicator of sorts to trigger the moment you are ready to explode. It will be your “negative reaction” alert. Also, try to stay away from using foul language. You rarely see a truly respected leader cussing.
14. Actions speak louder than words. Even though this is a non-verbal way of communicating, it still is quite powerful. A smile with no words can go a long ways. Unfortunately so can actions like burrowing your eyes, frowning, breathing a sign of disgust, crossing your arms in a defiant manner, closing your eyes while shaking your head, shoulders slumped, fidgeting, and little to no eye contact. Even the way you sit can say a lot about you. Be careful, as these actions, even if unintentional, can be demoralizing. The same holds true with your employees’ non-verbal behavior. You should analyze and react as needed. Don’t be afraid to follow you gut instinct based on suspicious non-verbal actions.
15. Continuously talk to, and get along with, your fellow managers. Building respect and a rapport with your fellow management team members will help build your reputation among the other departments. You can also learn some valuable information, or at least let them think you are on the same wavelength. They will feel that it was a good decision made by the company to hire you as manager.
16. Telephone etiquette. First off, make sure you answer your calls and do not be known as a screener. Secondly, make sure you return calls as soon as possible. You need to be sure your voice sounds warm and friendly. Even when you are in a bad mood, try to have a pleasant tone. Unless the person knows you extremely well, how you talk on the phone can create a bad impression. Try not to come across too harsh and overly confident, however, try not to be too sweet and insecure. Some ways to monitor your telephone technique is to pretend a camera is filming your every emotion. This will keep you in check. Also, try to have a smile on your voice and pretend you are actually talking to them as if they were in your office.
17. The hallway conversation. It is amazing how many quick impromptu meetings happen when passing someone in the hallway or meeting them in the break room. These quick chats can be productive, however, sometimes what is said can be considered a concrete decision, even if you thought it was just conversation. This is also the usual time gossip happens. Do your best not to gossip while still maintaining an approachable persona. Just use quick comebacks like, “That’s interesting, I sure hope it all works out,” and then quickly move on to another subject.
18. Use your sense of humor. Don’t come across too serious and unfriendly. Just because you are a manager does not mean you no longer have a personality. Pick the right times to let your guard down and tell funny stories or a joke or two. Also laugh at stories and jokes told to you. People trust a person who has both a serious, yet funny side to them. Quickly try to tap into your memory of any stories, trivial tidbits, or quick one-liners that are relevant to the conversation at hand. Don’t be shy, as part of being a manager is being a people person. Humor can help relieve tension and keep things into perspective. Just be careful not to come across as too sarcastic or say anything that can offend or be considered unethical. Also, don’t come across like a clown or be too goofy. You will lose respect that way.
19. Keep your boss in the loop at all times. You might be known as a manager who communicates well with their department; however, you also have to continually communicate with your boss. Give them the answer before they have to ask the question. Keep them updated, even if it is just a quick stop into their office. A couple of “quick and to the point” words can go a long way. It will make your boss feel comfortable that everything is under control, which will give you more job security.
For more communication tips on how to motivate, provide feedback, evaluate, and hold difficult conversations, see lessons 3 and 5.