5 tips for stronger manager communication

Include leaders in strategic planning to secure buy-in, coach them with specific goals and feedback, create a peer group, and reward jobs well done.


Managers have a tough job.

In addition to performing everyday tasks and meeting deadlines, they carry the burden of monitoring staff. With all these balls in the air, communication often takes a back seat. That’s a shame, because manager communication is an essential ingredient for company success.

A survey from Gatehouse found that the biggest barriers to success in the workplace revolve around managers. More specifically, employees routinely point to “lack of communication with their managers” as the top reason they quit. This has a terrible effect on retention, morale, cohesiveness and profitability.

Managers must communicate effectively. Here are five ways to help them improve:

1. Get manager buy-in and feedback as part of your strategic planning.

As HP’s chief executive, Meg Whitman, said:

You won’t make progress unless you win the hearts and minds of your people. It’s critical that people connect to the plan and are empowered to drive change out in the field.

Managers are on the front line of “winning hearts and minds,” but they must be “empowered to drive change.” All managers should take part in communications planning so they have a full understanding of what should be communicated and why.

Ask for manager feedback and ideas when formulating communication strategy. Managers can help you come up with fresh tactics and offer new insights. By giving them a say in how they’d like to be involved, they’re more likely to be empowered and support your communication efforts.

2. Coach and train managers along the way.

Not everyone is a natural communicator. Even those who excel can improve with practice, guidance and a bit of coaching.

Mentoring can help. Pair charismatic superstars or internal comms pros with those who need more help. If you don’t have a mentorship program to build successful leaders, consider establishing one.

There should be some aspect of formal training as well. Give your managers specific guidance for how to handle common communication issues, such as how often they should meet with staff and how frequently they should be praising their team. Make sure they’re considering the medium as much as the message. Give them specific targets to shoot for, and make sure they have all the resources they need to communicate effectively.

Investing in communication coaching and training might seem like a luxury, but it can help you decrease turnover, improve morale and boost productivity. It’s well worth the investment.

3. Conduct all-manager meetings, and devote an intranet section to managers.

Managers can gain tremendous insight from each other. Create events and provide space for managers to be together, whether it’s official meetings, a section of your intranet or on another shared platform.

Give them the opportunity to speak, ask questions and hear from their colleagues who are experiencing similar issues and challenges. Even if nothing urgent or groundbreaking is in the offing, solidarity and affirmation are important.

If you have an intranet, create discussion threads that tackle common obstacles. Less experienced managers can read and comment; more seasoned pros can blog and provide guidance.

Consider using fruitful online exchanges to help seed breakout sessions with managers. Don’t forget to call attention to great conservations in your manager emails and news segments, too.

4. Reward good communication.

Find ways to recognize those who are communicating with aplomb. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy—though it certainly could be—just make sure you let your people know that their effort is appreciated.

Don’t just spotlight those who excel at communications; highlight managers who are making headway by pointing out what they’re doing right. Explain how their contributions matter to the organization. Celebrate people making strides.

Keep in mind that the more ways you can reward people—and the more coveted the prize—the better the results will be.

A version of this post first appeared on the ElevatePoint blog.

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