Having good communication skills is beneficial for every employee, but especially in management positions where being a skilled communicator is essential. Good communication skills allow managers to create an environment of trust, understanding, and, ultimately, productivity. When managers communicate well, their employees feel connected to a company’s initiatives, objectives, and mission in a way that makes the entire organization stronger.
Here’s the bad news: most people aren’t naturally good communicators. There is good news, though. Communication skills can be learned – and, as we like to say, once communication skills are learned, they are useful to any person, at any time, in any place. Additionally, since most people aren’t great communicators, being a good communicator can make you stand out.
Let’s take a look at three communication skills that are essential for every manager. We’ll start with the one that may matter most.
1. The ability to share a vision
The ability to share a vision may be the most important communication skill a manager can have. That’s because this ability affects every other skill – from public speaking, to leading a meeting, to talking one-on-one with an employee. It’s a central thread that is woven throughout all forms of communication.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that vision sharing is some sort of mystic talent that requires an incredibly charismatic personality. There’s no denying that some people have a natural knack for communicating a vision, but, like any other communication skill, there are practical steps that you can take to improve. Here are the essential steps to sharing a vision.
Describe the vision in relatable terms
For managers, the vision that they’ll be sharing often isn’t their own. Because of that, there will be a host of issues that they’ll need to deal with.
Regardless of what the vision is, in order for it to gain traction with employees, it needs to be communicated in terms that they can relate to and understand.
Here is what this organization could look like in two years.” “Here’s what I believe we can do if we put our minds to it.”
A vision is defined as a future state of being. Always remember that you must share the vision before the process. Vision: We will operate a full year with no lost-time accidents. Process: We will increase the length of safety meetings, require everyone to wear protective eyewear at all times, etc.
Employees will often want to know: “Why do we need this now?” Developing your communication in response to that question can give you a compelling case for people to get on board with the vision.
“As painful as things may seem, this disruption gives us a remarkable window of opportunity and won’t last long. And, there is no better time than right now to turn this place around and create something great.”
Enroll the team in the process
Even if a manager does a great job of communicating the vision, there are still obstacles to getting the entire team onboard. In our decades of experience in the field of communication, one thing has never changed: people always want to hear what’s in it for them.
That’s okay. Enrolling the team in the process of fulfilling the vision will mean clearly explaining how it will benefit them. To do this, begin with the question, “What would happen if we fulfilled the vision?
For example, if the company initiative is to go a year without a loss time accident, communicate what would happen if you achieved that goal.
“If we go a year without a lost-time accident it means having nobody out with injuries. It means that everybody will go home each day in as good or better shape as when they came in. It means that we’d receive fewer fines, be more profitable, and be proud to have one of the safest workplaces in our industry.”
Focusing on what will happen if the vision is fulfilled can be inspiring, and it will help employees to understand how they’ll benefit themselves. And, ideally you want people to engage because they want to, not because they are told to.
Overcome the obstacles
Once a vision is cast, there will always be obstacles to making the vision a reality for your team. Let’s take a look at a few and how you can overcome them.
Employees are nervous about the changes.
Often, complying with an initiative or vision will require making substantial changes to the way things work. This can make employees hesitant to get on board.
Start by acknowledging the changes. Don’t leave them unspoken; getting them out in the open will allow for positive discussion around what will need to happen.
“The implementation will cause some headaches for several weeks. It may slow down your business as we shift to the new work flow.”
And don’t forget to include the “why” behind the changes. Don’t just tell people that their processes need to change; tell them why the change is needed. This may come back to focusing on the benefits of the vision.
“I think it would feel pretty good to know that other companies as well as our customers consider us a leader in safety. We know that the companies with the best safety record have 20% more revenue than others in the industry. And that means job security.”
Sometimes, employees are nervous because they’ve conformed to mandates that haven’t worked out in the past. If that’s the case, you need to acknowledge the elephant in the room and own up to past mistakes – and then tell people why they’ll be getting on the right track this time around.
“You may be asking, ‘How is this different than the initiative that fizzled and died last year after only a few months?”
There are some people who won’t get on board.
There are two common situations when people don’t get on board with a vision.
The first situation is when an employee has legitimate concerns about obstacles to accomplishing the vision. It’s important to listen to these obstacles and take them seriously. You want to establish a culture of openness and honesty, and if your employees feel like they can’t share their concerns, they’ll harbor resentment instead. That means that you’ll run into real problems down the line.
Welcome feedback. When employees are frustrated, acknowledge their pain. Make sure to listen for commonality and bridge to the positives.
“You may be right; our resources are stretched too thin. But, if we were going to proceed with this plan anyway, what would that look like to you?”
The other situation is when an employee is always frustrated – one of those people who sits in the back of the room muttering under his breath at everything he doesn’t like. Don’t waste energy trying to cater to these people, or spend time trying to convince them. It will only drag you, and your credibility, down. Instead, focus on the people who are willing to buy in. Eventually, the dissident will either have to get on board with everyone else, or find a new train.
Balance being on the leadership team with listening to your people.
Sometimes, as a manager, you may be asked to communicate a vision that you don’t entirely agree with. Maybe you know that your employees will have real concerns and obstacles to deal with, and you feel you owe it to them to voice those to the leadership team.
That’s okay. As a manager, communicating a vision is a balance between representing the interests of those who work for you, and promoting the vision of the company. So, when you feel unsure about promoting a vision, make sure you know the “why” and benefits behind it, so that you can communicate them to your team. If you still find it difficult to get on board, the truth is that you may be in the wrong position – or maybe even the wrong company.
Put Your Vision Sharing to the Test!
2. Leading a Meeting
You’ll be able to take many of the principles you use to share a vision into your meeting room. Meetings are one of the most important channels for communicating ideas. Unfortunately, many meetings are simply wasted time, due to the poor communication skills of the meeting leader. Not your meetings, though! Learn how to be an effective meeting leader in this post.
3. Be a Good Presenter
Presenting is the third communication skill that all managers should have. Even if you’re introverted, you can still learn to be a good presenter. Learn to connect with people on an emotional level using proven techniques, and make sure to wow them at the beginning and end of your presentation. Say goodbye to low energy presentations and get your team excited about the vision you’re sharing with this article.
If you learn how to share a vision, lead a meeting, and effectively present, you’ll be on your way to success as a manager.