Are there key things that managers should communicate? Well, yes, there are actually! Three things that are vital for all managers in all organisations to communicate well and regularly.
I see them as weekly leadership and management communication priorities. Areas you should think about every Monday morning in preparation for the week ahead. Great managers will work at this, developing open and regular dialogue with all the direct reports in the team. We shouldn’t leave something as important as this to chance but think through each area in a clear and logical way. It’s not difficult to do, but it is difficult to become consistent at this. So help yourself and create a weekly table you can complete identifying who you need to say what to, under each of the following headings, during the course of each week.
Priority 1 – Issues and Risks for Escalation.
Each week there are likely to be exceptions that your team need your support in resolving. It’s vital that you keep an open channel for them to keep you up to date with these. As the manager, the buck stops with you, so you need to keep abreast of potential problems and offer the team the support they need to work through them. This is the most important communication priority, offering support, insights, decision making and on occasion ‘making things happen’ for your team.
Ask who I need to say what to about the issues and risks we are facing this week. In a good week, there may not be anything for escalation to you, but unfortunately, that makes this priority easier to drop off the radar. So you have to keep asking, checking in on anything that may be on the horizon that needs your input and guidance.
Priority 2 – Focusing on Objectives and the Sequence of Events.
Your second communication priority is to ensure that there is absolute clarity across the team about what’s got to be achieved this coming week. This is both at the level of team and individual deliverables. Every person needs the focus you as the manager can bring.
Are we doing the right stuff, are we working on the things that deliver the goals alone, or is some resource being diverted inadvertently to other things? I’m really quite hard about this; I don’t have spare resources in my team to have anyone doing anything that is not directly contributing to the goals we have set ourselves. It’s not that people are actively wasting time and energy, it’s just that without clarity people will start picking up work which is peripheral to the main thing. Our job is to keep people focused on that main thing. That way we will create momentum and direction across the team towards the things we need to achieve.
Priority 2 asks, who do I need to say what to about this week’s objectives and the sequence of events? Everything has a sequence of events, everything. A good manager will recognise this and ensure that the team have got it. When people fail to see the sequence of events needed to deliver the objective, they often fail to deliver it (at least in a timely way).
Priority 3 – Motivational and Developmental Feedback.
Your third priority is to give feedback. There are only two types of feedback that you need, motivational and developmental. Please note that ‘constructive criticism’ does not exist on this list! It is singularly the most inappropriate phrase that managers have adopted in the last few decades. Nobody (including me) wants constructive criticism. My dad used to say “You can’t make a purse out of a pig’s ear” Neither can you make criticism a good thing by adding the word constructive!
You need to give feedback, every week. It will either be motivational; feedback that affirms the good things people are doing, or developmental; feedback that increases the competence of the team. Competence is one of the pillars of a great team, alongside clarity (spoken about in priority 2 above).
Each week you should work out, who to say what to, that is either motivating them to continue and/or helping them to do even better next time.
So three priorities you need to implement to polish your management communications skills. These are management foundations, in my opinion, things we ought to have been told on day one but probably weren’t! The great thing is that they are specific, so often people talk about management communication in such generic terms. It’s a pet frustration of mine that people speak about the need for communication, without the pointedness of what that really means to you and me as leaders and managers. Start introducing these three to your weekly task list and become known as the manager who supports, directs and develops their people like no other.
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