Francis Wade | Why managers now need to communicate until it hurts
Why do managers fail to get people moving in the right direction? More often than not, they blame their staff, even as they lack the drive to push themselves to communicate outside their chosen comfort zone.
The answer to being a better motivator? Know your limits and exceed them.
If you supervise the work of others, consider my observation most managers chronically under-communicate.
While I can't prove the above assertion with research data, my anecdotal evidence suggests that many of your employees may find themselves stranded. Without sufficient dialogue and adequate answers, they arrive at their own conclusions with only the help of others who share their skewed thinking. A yawning gap emerges, which can only be spanned if you take the initiative.
You must do more than sit in your office or meetings, feeling safe in the belief that your intentions are being well understood. They aren't. The only reason you don't realise the problem is that most employees are reticent, reluctant to confront you. Only after a disaster strikes, do you see the truth sometime ago, you left them far behind.
To prevent this outcome, borrow a trick from weightlifters who accept that their development only comes from progressive overload - the addition of extra pounds.
The principle is simple. Muscles become bigger and stronger when they are subject to increasing loads. Added stress produces growth. It's the very opposite approach taken by the typical manager who is trying to reduce pressure, not increase it.
One solution is to engage in the following three practices to be executed by you, as a manager, with a kind of systematic, ruthless diligence.
USE NEW TECHNOLOGIES
When I started in the corporate world as a 20-year-old, internal communication occurred via the printed word or in speeches. Today, if you stick to those approaches, employees are likely to associate them with you and your message, that is, as stale.
Use improved, enriched forms of communication if you hope to steal your employees' attention away from their devices with their continuous barrage of multimedia distractions. To keep up, you must learn how to adopt the latest popular technologies.
For example, today it's as important to master social-networking tools as it is to know Word or PowerPoint, with one difference. The social network's features are evolving more quickly, implying that you need to be a permanent student, experimenting and learning how to communicate with today's employees.
USE INTERACTIVE CHANNELS
As new hires, my colleagues and I understood that information was meant to be sent in one direction. Down. Thirty years later, this just won't do. Now, employees who are the targets of one-way communication offer up bored, blank looks, especially if they are Millennials.
The fact is, they have been raised with an expectation that problem-solving is a joint activity, regardless of who initiates the interaction. Don't think of a sermon. Instead, study Facebook, Netflix and Snapchat to understand their addictive, game-like qualities. Their interactive design is the new norm.
To thrive in today's world, you must be persuasive, using blogs, podcasts, live dialogues and the written word in ways that provoke employees
to interact. Like masterful Internet marketers, you have no choice but to keep pushing the envelope in order to inspire others to action.
As you do so, expect these interactions to change you as well. No longer is communication about 'delivery'. Now, if you aren't being transformed during these dialogues, both live and virtual, then you should suspect you are either being boring or irrelevant.
As I mentioned at the beginning, if you are a manager, it's likely that you are not communicating enough. You may talk a lot when given the chance, perhaps even drowning out others, but that's not the same.
Most managers aren't equipped to deliver the high frequency of communication required to proactively answer employees' questions and concerns. Understand that if they are using WhatsApp to touch bases with every other important person in their life several times per day, then your monthly update meetings fall far short.
The worst managers resist such requirements, convincing themselves that 'I am paying these people, so they should listen, be content and perform'. It's old, outdated 'bakra' thinking, which believed that feeding and housing slaves was enough to earn their loyalty.
Don't fall into that trap. Instead, use new technology, interactivity and over-communication until you find yourself far outside your comfort zone.
When it starts to hurt, consider that a good sign.
It's what you need to grow into the kind of manager who is meeting employees where they are, rather than where you wish they were. Embrace the new level of receptivity, sensitivity and openness which is now required to be a great communicator.
- Francis Wade is a management consultant and author. To receive a Summary of Links to past columns, or give feedback, email: email@example.com