As the unprecedented takes over as the new norm, it is important for workplace leaders to emerge strongly in this situation. Effective and clear communication can be crucial to keep your teams going forward. Most of your teams might be stuck inside homes, anxious about the present situation and trying to cope with the new routines. Communication is one of the most important skills any leader must possess, but all too often, we spend little time developing and enhancing this vital soft skill because it doesn’t offer immediate, tangible value. A little can go a long way and it is the right time to start paying more attention to how you engage with your teams.
Your communication skills will also be required in other aspects of your job as businesses move to virtual negotiations with clients and suppliers. There’s probably not a single day that goes by in which you’re not actively communicating with other people. However, you may need to be more attentive as more and more interactions move to the digital domain. Even if you never took a class on communicating, there are a few ways you can brush up on your communication skills in a leadership role:
Listen to Others
The best leaders are good at active listening, which means genuinely engaging with what another person is saying, demonstrating interest and concern for them, posing thoughtful questions, and waiting for them to finish before injecting your input into the discussion.
Since you no longer share the same physical space, it has become even more important to listen in to your teams. Do they seem stressed? Are they finding it hard to be productive when working from their homes? Or maybe they have some great ideas about new opportunities. In times of tough calls, it will be the ability of a leader to engage with employees that separates the average leaders from the truly great leaders. Just because you’re in a position of superiority doesn’t always mean your ideas are the best, so take the time to listen to your employees to see what new ideas and strategies they might come up with.
Be Specific and Clear
There’s nothing worse for an employee struggling to complete a task than to have too little guidance from their manager. If they don’t know exactly what objective they’re striving towards and how to fulfill that objective, then chances are they’ll be pretty inefficient in the process and might even produce unintended results. Your teams might be used to in-person instructions or peer support. It is important to continue the chain of communication, adjust expectations in light of the new realities and encourage active engagement.
To avoid uncertainties, it’s your job as a workplace leader to clearly specify your expectations and respond promptly whenever your employee seeks additional guidance. “Just do it” might work for Nike, but it isn’t a good leadership motto.
Avoid Indefinite Uncertainty
Similar to the issue of lacking clarity, shrugging off your employees’ questions or concerns can lead to serious problems down the line. A simple task or instruction may not have been understood clearly. Phrases like “it doesn’t matter,” “I’m not sure,” “that’s not my job,” and even “maybe” should be eliminated from your leadership vocabulary so you can emphasize consistently clear communication above all else.
Instead of saying “I’m not sure,” briefly explain how you’ll try to resolve the issue. Instead of saying, “it doesn’t matter,” explain what the most important goals of a project or task are and leave the rest up to your employee’s discretion, so long as those key objectives are fulfilled.