Communication is an important part of your job – one that is often taken for granted. When you think about it, almost everything you do calls for good communications. When you hire a new employee, good communication skills help you pick the right person and make sure the person you hire knows what the job involves. When you’re training, coaching, or evaluating an employee, you need to be clear about your expectations and sensitive in dealing with problem areas. When conflicts arise, you’ll need your communication skills to resolve the issues without creating more.
When the department is going through changes or a reorganization, you’ll need special communication skills to get feedback and ideas from your staff and to give them news that’s sometimes not pleasant, while keeping them motivated. Honest communication is one of the key ingredients in managing change as well as managing people.
Many topics covered in this Guide include communication skills. In this section, you’ll find some suggestions for developing those skills.
Good communication can help you:
- Improve relationships and teamwork
- Improve performance and productivity
- Foster an open, creative environment
- Solve problems effectively
Becoming a Better Communicator
Your responsibility as a supervisor is to communicate clearly and concisely to all employees and create an environment conducive to openness for others. As the staff become more diverse, you may have to take extra time and effort to communicate to all staff members. To become a better communicator:
- Create an open communication environment in your unit. Encourage employees to talk about work issues; listen carefully and respond to questions or concerns with actions or answers. If an issue is outside your authority, pass it along to the appropriate person; then be sure to follow up.
- Conduct regular staff meetings. Tell your staff about decisions that may affect them or the work they do and the reasons for those decisions. Use staff meetings to encourage feedback, generate ideas, solve problems, and gain support.
- Set up individual meetings. Set some time aside periodically to meet one-on-one with employees. Group staff meetings are important; however, meeting separately with your employees shows concern about their individual work issues.
An important ingredient that runs through all good communication is listening. Listening is a skill that can be practiced and learned. Your goal as a listener is to fully understand your employee’s experience and point of view. Give the employee a chance to talk for a while before you say anything.
- Use non-verbal communication. Be aware of what you communicate with your body; your posture and expressions can convey your attitudes toward a speaker even before you say one word. Use body language to show the speaker that you are engaged in the conversation and open to hearing.
- Recognize your own prejudices. Be aware of your own feelings toward the speaker. If you are unsure about what the speaker means, ask for clarification instead of making assumptions.
- Listen to understand the underlying feelings. Use your heart as well as your mind to understand the speaker. Notice how something is said as well as the actual words used.
- Don’t interrupt: Be sure you think carefully before you speak. As a listener, your job is to help the speaker express himself.
- Don’t judge the person: A speaker who feels you are making judgments will feel defensive. Avoid making judgments and instead try to empathize and understand the speaker’s perspective.
- Do not give advice: Keep in mind that the best resolutions are those that people arrive at themselves, not what someone else tells them to do. If you feel
After you have listened and really heard, respond by conveying your interest and respect:
- Empathize: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand.
- Validate: Acknowledge that the person’s feelings are valid. This is a very powerful tool because you are recognizing the person’s right to feel that way, regardless of whether you would feel the same way.
- Restate what the other person has said: this allows you to make sure you understand the feelings and shows you are listening. Point out the good things the person has done or tried to do.
- Clarify: Ask questions to get more information about the problem.
- Summarize: Paraphrase the main points you have heard so that you can make sure you understand all the issues.
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