Company Leaders Pursue Effective Communication Techniques With Employees

Encourage employees to speak up when they have questions and concerns, and then build a positive relationship to help the company.

Are you “all ears” at the office? If you’re a manager, you should be. A good leader fosters open communication, encouraging employees to freely ask questions and discuss any concerns.

True leadership requires open and regular interaction between managers and employees. Good leaders know they cannot lead from behind a desk. To get a sense of what is actually happening in their organization, they must be actively involved.

This doesn’t mean leaders directly help employees perform their jobs. By simply maintaining an active awareness of what is going on in their company, leaders can anticipate problems and opportunities and respond accordingly. Plus, when leaders communicate and maintain a presence with their employees, they establish great rapport, which deepens employee trust and loyalty and broadens organizational cohesiveness.

Leaders can open up communication with their employees by practicing these techniques:

Encourage questions

Employees have various levels of confidence and self-esteem, so leaders must encourage everyone to regularly ask questions. This will make employees more comfortable about speaking up. It also gives them the confidence to approach their boss without hesitation when the need arises.

When asked a question, leaders must be open and receptive, no matter how trivial the subject. Those who simply brush off the employee convey that questions are not welcome or there’s no time to discuss them. These managers undermine the process of open communication.

Look for opportunities to ask questions

Leaders must not passively wait for employees to come to them with questions. The nature of leadership demands being out among employees, asking questions and soliciting input. Leaders can communicate their interests to each employee while keeping tabs on the activities and direction of the organization. Thus, they will be able to anticipate and handle an issue before it explodes into a major problem.

When leaders actively solicit questions and answers, they communicate care and concern for their employees and the entire organization.

Ask ‘personally’

It is important for leaders to ask questions in person. Email doesn’t communicate the tone and nonverbal cues that people often need to fully understand a question. And face-to-face questions give leaders the opportunity to clearly explain their intentions and get a more comprehensive answer.

While email may be efficient, leaders should understand that not all employees are good writers; therefore, some may not be able to communicate adequately in this medium. Employees who are uncomfortable with email might not even attempt to reply unless forced to, in which case, responses may be short and/or incomplete.

Respect the questioner

In the daily workplace routine, it is not uncommon for a leader to hear a range of questions, from trivial to extremely important. Leaders must treat every question and questioner with respect. Rather than embarrass or alienate the employee, good leaders validate the question and thank the employee for bringing it to their attention.

Listen actively

When approached with a question, leaders need to give the employee their undivided attention; however, the workplace environment may not always make this practical. So if their attention is needed elsewhere, rather than appearing to dismiss the employee, leaders should explain that the timing simply isn’t right. They should assure the employee that they would like to talk later, at a specific time convenient for both.

The time selected must be sufficient for a full discussion, without any urgency to hurry the process along. Once the appointment is set, leaders should make a point to keep it. When discussing the question, leaders should paraphrase parts or all of it back to the employee to help clarify and understand the concerns being raised.

Be cooperative

In most workplace environments, leaders deal with daily problems and issues that produce varying degrees of stress. Under such circumstances, it is easy for any individual to appear defensive or adversarial when asked a question, especially an unexpected one.

Effective leaders, however, maintain a consistent attitude and posture that fosters a cooperative spirit within their team or company. They keep a friendly and open demeanor with their employees by paying attention to their own moods, attitudes, body language and tone of voice.

Take responsibility but don’t solve every problem

All people in any organization have limits and responsibilities. When approached with questions, a leader should not respond by doing the employee’s work for him or her. But there are times when the leader is responsible for developing a solution. The key is to understand the appropriate response for the particular question.

Leaders need to set firm and fair limits on what they are willing and able to do so employees don’t place unreasonable demands on their time and energy. At the same time, it is unrealistic for leaders to expect their employees to solve every problem without guidance. Generally, the appropriate course of action is somewhere in the middle, where the employee and the leader brainstorm to arrive at an acceptable solution.

Follow up

Open communication demands leaders follow up on their responses to employee questions by making sure the solution is understood, acceptable and implemented. Obviously, the degree of follow-up should be proportionate to the question’s impact and importance. Small problems probably only need a simple follow-up question to make sure things are going all right, while bigger problems could require a series of subsequent meetings.

Follow-up keeps communication with employees open because it often triggers additional questions, input and feedback. In this way, the communication process becomes a continuous, effective loop.


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