6 ways to help line managers communicate with employees

Cascading messages have become popular, but are they effective? Unless you help your people understand the organization’s core values and personalize them for staff, you’ll miss the mark.

Pre-packaged guidance and slogans often ring hollow.

Consider the plight of line managers responsible for cascading messages. Communicators often create such platitudes intending to make life easier for line managers, but those regurgitated words lack sentiment or spirit.

Ideally, line managers should be the organization’s chief communicators, but according to the recent State of the Sector report from Gatehouse, 52 percent of respondents feel the lack of line manager communication skills is the most pressing challenge that internal communicators face.

We can we do? Here are some ideas:

1. Upgrade their skills. Everything has a learning curve, and learning to share communications effectively takes time and commitment-as well as some incentive. Cultivating communication skills ensures a positive experience for employees, as well as making managers more comfortable in their role and enhancing their personal and professional development. There’s a raft of resources out there, including blogs, courses, online tutorials, conferences, books, white papers, etc. It’s never been easier to develop and strengthen our skills, so encourage managers to explore the options available.

2. Call on your coaching abilities. If we’re asking others to develop techniques for sharing messages, we should support them along the way. We must hone our coaching skills and continually and gently use those skills to develop others. After all, we’re professional communicators, and we’ve a lot of knowledge and experience to offer. With support and understanding, along with the gathering and sharing of feedback, a line manager’s confidence and comfort will strengthen tenfold.

3. Promote storytelling. Inspire confidence by encouraging line managers to put their own stamp on each communication. Sharing personal stories-be they based on significant change, personal development or overcoming particularly arduous challenges-can be a powerful and emotive way to bring messages to life. They have a lifetime of interesting experiences; inspire them to share. If they need guidance, suggest a storytelling structure to get them started.

4. Encourage ownership. Encourage line managers to take ownership of the communications you’re asking them to pass along. This will take time, so whenever possible, encourage them to become familiar with the messages they’re sharing, ask questions, discuss and consider. That will put them in control.

5. Ease up on perfection; welcome the wonky. Perfection is overrated. Instead, strive for personality, and embrace the wonder of wonky comms. In this article by Rachel Miller of All Things IC, we must “actively encourage our workforce to create content, shoot their own videos, share photographs, join discussions, have their say… the list is endless. It also requires senior leaders to embrace ‘wonkiness’ too. No longer should they rely on the comms team to craft their thoughts, but we need to ensure there are opportunities for them to be, well, human.”

6. Ease their burden. There are many ways to spread the word across an organization: videos from senior leaders, social tools and much more. Let your managers know about those options and what their role is in having direct conversations with their teams.

Taking on the challenge of learning new skills, being confident with what is required in a role and comfortable in doing it are big demands on anyone, whether they’re a line manager or not. As an IC professional, your ability to share your skills and empower line managers are among the most important things you can do, for them and for the organization as a whole. Becoming a great communicator is something you’ve had to learn; it’s time to pass the baton.

The goal should be to share skills and instill confidence, not have them recite ready-made bromides. Let’s create organizations full of great communicators, not message regurgitators.

Alan Oram is creative director at Alive With Ideas, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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