Category Archives: Communicating Effectively

Giving Specific Communication

When I was eleven years old in Des Moines, Washington, I would go to our small community library to check out a couple of books. One time, I found this book about a young boy who wanted to be a journalist. It looked interesting so I checked it out. As I read it, the boy learned that a journalist answers five ‘W’ questions with each and every article – who, what, when, where and why.

As we communicate information to others, this is a good formula to make sure we are being specific. Some examples of those questions are:

  • Who is involved, who made the decision, who does this apply to, who is working on it, who do I need to talk to
  • What are we doing, what is going to happen, what has happened, what is it, what  limitations do we need to know
  • When did this happen, when will it take place, when does it need to be operating, when will supplies (or equipment) be available, when will we report or follow-up
  • Where is this going to be used, where do the materials come from, where are others who will be involved, where are we going to do the work
  • Why is this important, why was I chosen, why do we need this, why not use an alternative approach

As we ask and answer these basic questions, we communicate more specifics.  As we are more specific in our communication, there is more clarity and transparency in our own minds, as well as, the minds of others.

Do you have an experience where a lack of specifics led to confusion, failure or frustration?

Getting Along with the Boss

One of the most important actions you, as a middle manager, needs to do is develop a good working relationship with your immediate supervisor.  Our positions exist to support and assist those above us in the hierarchy.

In order to do that, we need to communicate with our supervisor.  Here is a short list of some key information we need:

  • What are her primary goals? (Focus on the 1-2 that you can have the biggest impact on)
  • What are her priorities right now? (Not just what is urgent, but what is important)
  • How does she prefer to work? (Early or late arrival at work?, stay late, work weekends? in office, out on floor, at home, coffee shop?)
  • How does she prefer to communicate? (Weekly or monthly reports?  Formal written, email, verbal, phone call, hallway report?)

Information such as this helps you to set priorities and provide your supervisor with what she needs to be successful.  With patience, it can even reduce or eliminate micromanagement by our supervisor.

One of the ways to communicate with your supervisor is to schedule a regular meeting.  In a that meeting, discuss three areas:

(a)  Report what has happened in the recent past.  Mostly this will be successes and progress you’ve achieved.  Sometimes it will be a heads up of negative issues that might be developing.

(b) Provide a brief description about areas or issues you intend to focus on in the near future.

(c)   Inquire about changes in your supervisors priorities.

The meeting should be short, maybe 15-30 minutes. Regularly scheduling this meeting will help you keep your supervisor informed and you on track supporting both your and your supervisors priorities.

Studies show that about 75% of all people who leave jobs, do so because of a poor relationship with their supervisor.  While a lot of the responsibility for relationships may be on the supervisor, each of us can improve the situation as we improve communication with our supervisors and managers.

What actions would you suggest to improve upward communication?

Communication & Weeds

Leadership is like growing a garden.  Tilling the soil represents our communication.  As we loosen the soil we remove weeds.  Weeds lead to wasted resources, wasted effort, and reduced productivity.  A leader that doesn’t eliminate the weeds in the workplace will have people that are doing the wrong things, in the wrong way, at the wrong time.

In the workplace, we eliminate weeds through effective communication.  And weeds crop up constantly in gardens and the workplace.  A few small weeds are a small problem, but if they are allowed to grow, they become large and numerous, and clearing them out takes substantially more effort.

To eradicate weeds in the workplace, I’d suggest leaders need to build multiple channels of communication with their subordinates.  A minimum of four channel types are needed – (a) informal one-to-one, (b) formal one-to-one, (c) informal team, and (d) formal team.

The informal one-to-one provides a setting to enable us to get to know people and build a positive relationship with team members. Also, it helps us pull small weeds as they come up.

The formal one-to-one gives us a forum to remove bigger weeds and provides a return/report function that builds accountability.

The informal team setting allows us to convey information that is important, but neither dramatic or traumatic.  This channel can stop weeds before they begin.

The formal team channel provides a setting for training, addressing broad issues and team problem-solving.  It is the place for the dramatic and traumatic that affects the entire team.

The leader that uses all four channels will have a well-weeded garden.

What are some of the methods of communication you’ve seen used effectively?