Are You Communicating the Right Way?

I’ve recently been working with a Manager who had been promoted to a higher level with more responsibility.  In the past, she had been a peer to some of her fellow managers and now they were reporting to her. She has been in the position for 6 months and things are not going well.  “Why don’t they just do what I want them to?” she asked me.

The minute she mentioned this statement I knew that she had already made a big mistake. She had mixed up the priorities and her approach with her people. Rather than viewing her role as working with them to get them to lift their performance, she had fallen into the age-old management approach of let me tell you what to do.  

For anyone that is a Manager, Senior Leader or business owner it is important to get your sequence right with your people.  One strategy that you can use is around the way you communicate with them. The communication touch-points that you use with others directly impact your relationship, their focus and ultimately their performance.  There are 3 modes of communication that you need to ensure that you get right:

Do you Tell, Show or Ask?

Tell.  Telling is the most common approach that a Manager takes and it is often the least effective.  It is about informing their people what to do (and often exactly how to do it). The limitation of this approach is that it is one way.  It often positions the Manager as someone above their people. It also gets many people on the defensive because it does not recognise past efforts.

Show.  Showing others is often a stronger approach to use.  You can show them information, data or have them observe another way to approach something.  This requires you to often use a visual approach so they can see and more importantly understand the message.  A simple technique is to map the ideas you are discussing on a sheet of paper or a white board so they can see and contribute to the discussion.

Ask.  By starting your communication with a question you can also improve the interaction with others.  Rather than directing them on what to do, you can ask them what they think. This can often lead to a more useful discussion because a Manager is seeking their ideas, before telling them what they think.  Remember that the ask needs to be delivered in a way to seek understanding not to interrogate or accuse which will have the opposite effect!

Actions to Getting Your Communication Sequence Right:

  1. At Work.  Think about the tasks that your people need to improve or focus on and review how you normally communicate these to them.  Are you too heavy on the Tell?  For the next communication touchpoint with them start with an Ask.  What question are you going to start with and how will you get them bringing up solutions rather than you.  Remember to visually capture these ideas to demonstrate that you are with them!
  2. At Home.  Start tracking what your communication approach is with your significant others and family.  Do you fall into a pattern of telling them what to do (ie which kids homework, just taking over rather than asking them?)  Actively look for ways to Ask and Show in your communication touch-points from them.  It will show you care and can bring the relationship to a deeper level.

Commit to getting your communication sequence right.  Be the person that others admire because of your approach.  If we had more leaders getting this right the performance in workplaces would improve.  Do the things that matter and you will see results at work and at home.