Most bosses can spout the current rhetoric about the importance of communication, the conventional wisdom on employee engagement, and probably even the platitudes about work-life balance that everyone is looking for. Anyone who reads the news, business journals, or just memes on social media knows the buzz words.
But let’s delve into the concept of communication as it applies to managers and bosses…what do all those words mean?
It is important to communicate your expectations clearly, but how do you know when you’ve done that? If you get the result you’re looking for, does that constitute evidence that you are a good communicator, or could it mean your subordinate just thinks like you? A happy accident, but can it be replicated?
Good managers espouse the corporate values and culture. Can you recite the company motto? How about their mission statement? Do you explain to employees the corporate culture your organization is trying to achieve? Great, check that off the list.
You Get an “A” in Communication
You must be the best boss ever if you are saying all the right things and checking all the buzz word boxes. You are probably headed for a promotion and a leadership award from your organization.
If you are saying the right things, you must also be doing the right things. Wait? What you DO matters?
That’s the great thing about communication, it is a multi-faceted, and at times rather complex, concept. It’s not just words on the screen, politely worded emails, or checklists of tasks. Communication is not just about what you say and how you say it, but what you do.
They’re Watching You
As a boss, a manager, a leader in your organization, you are a role model whether you like it or not. If you are lucky, employees are listening to what you say and they actually trust it to be true. But everyone is watching what you do. That is where the real truth lies.
We call it non-verbal communication “in the biz.” The fact that you can describe the corporate culture your organization is striving for is far less important than how you live it while everyone is watching.
You explain to people that their work-life balance is important to you while you take phone calls at 9:00 at night and send emails over the weekend.
You describe workflows that include timelines for everyone to have time to do their part, but you never adhere to your own deadlines.
You’re too busy to show up to meetings on time or follow-up with subordinates who have questions or need help prioritizing their workload.
What you are really saying to employees through that fake smile that hides the stress you live in ALL THE TIME is that you do not value work-life balance; employees are not important to you. Any boss who works 24/7 will expect the same from employees, even when he says the opposite. Your own work habits scream a much louder message.
How Good Managers Communicate
Good managers communicate expectations clearly and follow-up frequently. They model professionalism by showing up to meetings on time, being organized leaders, and adhering to deadlines. Words are nice, but the real test of the communication skills of a boss is in her actions. The non-verbal cues you give your employees and co-workers, that pained look on your face, the random pile of papers on your desk, and your attention to unimportant small details while the bigger picture crumbles around you tell the real story.