There’s great wisdom in the concept of “leading by example”, and the reason a book is judged sometimes by its cover. Communication is not just about the things you say, but the millions of signals you give out, and the way you use your hands. A new book, Management Secrets,by Michael Heath gives insights on how management can be made fun and effective. Edited excerpts from the chapter on Communication:
If ever there’s an exercise on a training course that asks for the essential management skills, I can guarantee that the word “communication” will be very high on the list. Many people think communication is just another word for speaking, but listening and body language are equally important. This chapter touches upon many different aspects, including communicating with your boss, peers, staff and people from other cultures.
Manage up like you manage down
So often when we talk about management we automatically think of those who report to us. But what about managing upwards? After all, the boss can make your life so much sweeter. There are some real skills needed here—and you have to carefully think through your approach.
I love the website www.badbossology.com. Especially their survey which found that “48% said they would fire their boss if they could. 29% would have their boss assessed by a workplace psychologist. 23% would send their boss for management training!”
So is your boss a saint or a sinner? Either way you have to build a relationship that secures a more enjoyable working life. So let me share some helpful insights with you.
• Get to know your boss’ goals and challenges. Your boss has goals just like you. Find out and remember them. It’s easier to win more resources if they can deliver targets for your boss.
• Get to know the boss personally. How does he or she like to work? What are his or her interests, likes or dislikes?
• Set goals together. You need to make sure that you’re working on the right things. Don’t just update your boss with your achievements. Let him or her know where you’ll next be prioritizing your attention.
• Avoid surprises. No one wants to hear bad news. If you’ve got a suspicion that something’s not going as planned then let the boss know—fast!
• Talk their language. Every boss has a way of processing information. Some like headlines. Others like bottom lines. Find out and learn their language.
• Deliver on your commitments. It’s a rare boss who complains about a high achiever in their team. Deliver against your objectives and your boss’ respect for you will rocket.
• Go to your boss with solutions—not just problems. Isn’t that what you want from your staff? Show the boss that you’ve thought things through, even if you both come up with a different answer.
Always be tactful
Managers often have to choose their words carefully to avoid upsetting people. The ability to control a message can often defuse a difficult conversation. If you don’t learn this skill, then you can make a situation worse. First, you have to choose whether to speak at all. Then, you need to clarify the situation and take great care in responding.
What is tact? It’s choosing the right thing to say without offending. “Choosing” is the important word here. Tactless people don’t exercise that choice. They instantly say what’s on their mind—and wish they hadn’t. Managers have to filter what they say.
When you’re communicating with people, remember that how you say something can build—or break—self- esteem. “Monika, that introduction you did was far too long.” How much better if she’d been told: “Monika, there’s so much great material in your presentation, I’d shorten your introduction to get to it.”
When you find yourself in a difficult conversation follow the TACT approach.
T = Think—don’t speak. Any first rush of emotion soon subsides. Get your brain under control and show interest. Do this and you’re 75% of the way there.
A = Ask questions. There are two reasons for doing this. First, questioning allows you crucial time to think. Second, you’re showing respect by encouraging the person to give their view.
C = Clarify your understanding. Use clarification questions to check that you fully understand the other person’s point of view. “So what you’re upset about is…”
T = Talk with care. Give yourself time and make sure that what you say is neutral. Later on you may give your opinion because you’ve thought it through. But do you need to do so now?
Finally, let’s get one thing clear. Being tactful is not about avoiding confrontation. I still want you to be direct and honest. It’s just that I want to make sure people want to listen to you. And that involves not “turning them off” what it is you’re trying to say.
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