How important is communication in the workplace?
Very important. Communication in general is a real concern in the workplace, mainly because many employees perceive that their managers don’t listen to them. We’ve found that when problems arise, only 10% of them are due to an actual issue.
The other 90% are a result of the way things are addressed, and what people hear and feel rather than what’s actually happening.
Managers who learn to communicate well become highly effective leaders with high performing teams because their people know what’s expected of them and feel their needs are addressed.
As a result of these improved relations, they focus more on the work and getting things done, and less on perceived issues.
How does poor communication play out in the work environment?
A daily example is when accusations are made before checking facts, resulting in very reactive behaviour.
Another is the generation gap and how this shows up, particularly in the way Gen X and Y Millennials communicate via email and converse in short ‘text’ language.
This is particularly problematic when we see younger managers interacting with their older colleagues. Other factors impacting good quality communication include stress from fear of job security, tightening legislation and economic and social complexities.
These are just some of the factors that contribute to the disconnect in communication. It’s no wonder workplaces have the potential to become toxic unless proactively managed.
How do managers affect revenue growth?
Managers should be setting goals and ensuring there’s alignment between the company’s strategy and the tasks that teams are engaged in.
Managers who are drawn into task-type work instead of managing people are not effectively managing revenue growth.We refer to this as transformational versus transactional work.
Transactional tasks are all about the details of doing things right. Transformational tasks are about leadership and doing the right things. Like most things in business, this should follow the 80/20 principle: 80% of what a manager does should be transformational, and 20% transactional. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
A focus on transformational activities requires a manager who has excellent delegation skills. It also requires staff to do the transactional work, and clarity in terms of what’s expected of them. Murkiness filters from the top down.
Is the manager clear on what their leadership requires? If they aren’t, they can’t prioritise for their own teams.
Is there such a thing as working too hard?
Definitely. No one can be on 24/7, and the trouble today is that with Internet access and smart devices, we’re all reachable anywhere, receiving a constant stream of information we feel compelled to reply to.
Leaders tend to want more and more, but good managers should encourage their teams to take time off to recharge, and to encourage daily down time by making a habit of going offline.
There’s also a multitude of studies proving that being ‘always-on’ negatively impacts your ability to be effective and that downtime leads to higher productivity.
How can teams use their time more effectively?
As a manager, start by understanding that many people have a ‘monkey on their back’ or an issue that is causing them stress.
You’re the manager, so naturally they’ll come to you. It’s not your role to simply solve the problem for them, particularly if you can see the solution.
Instead, take care to train and empower your team so that they don’t need you to make every decision for them. As a manager, you tie a noose around your neck by creating co-dependency.
Managers who have a fear of letting go or difficulty trusting others will also buy into the idea of being ‘on’ 24/7. It’s a poor management style – it doesn’t work, and it generally leads to a high staff turnover.
Dealing with people and creating trust is all about personal boundaries. Start by discussing issues openly. For example, if you think it’s okay to contact your team at 11pm, they’ll think it’s okay with each other too, and before you know it, no one has boundaries, everyone feels burnt out and not in control of their time or lives and productivity plummets, despite 50+ hour work weeks. What example, and ultimately what culture, are you as the manager creating?
Are there any in-office tricks that help with productivity?
One of the best productivity tips is to zone your time. Focus exclusively on specific outcomes and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by tasks that appear urgent, but aren’t a priority.
We advise setting up automated email responses that outline specific times when you answer emails. This way no one thinks you’re ignoring them, and they know when they can expect a reply.
It’s important for this to become a company policy though, as it can create internal conflict if one department is expecting an answer to an urgent email and feels they are being ‘ignored’.
The world won’t end if an email remains unanswered for two hours – it just means everyone has to plan ahead and be proactive about their time, rather than reactive. With this one simple system, productivity should skyrocket.
Should leaders adapt their style to the situation?
We’re strong supporters of Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model (see sidebar), which does advise matching leadership style to the situation at hand. However, while different situations require a different response, such as taking control, or teaching and coaching, ultimately the most successful organisations encourage senior managers, middle managers and all employees to feel empowered.
To achieve this, you need to develop an organisation with a listening culture, and accountability structures.
A place that builds relationships and people with respectful boundaries, where staff are heard and acknowledged. The best thing you can do is make someone feel valuable: Hear them and allow them to exercise what they’ve brought to the table.
Can you give an example of where this goes wrong?
Something we often see in corporate situations is a manager who presents an idea that a team member came up with to the board, and then takes credit for it.
It’s a very short-sighted form of leadership, because while the manager might temporarily look good, the person who had the idea in the first place becomes discouraged and disengaged, which ultimately affects the overall creativity and productivity of the team.
Great ideas shouldn’t be conceived in isolation. They should be nurtured and developed and this can only happen in an environment of collaboration and trust.
A manager who takes credit for ideas that weren’t theirs does the exact opposite. Grow transparency around ideas so that everyone knows where they originated, and also feels comfortable adding to them.
The best cultures are built around ‘we’ thinking. They reward managers whose teams excel, instead of managers who shine independently of their teams. It’s important to get the whole team involved.
Is there a larger cultural issue at hand?
Trust, ego and a sense of autonomy can cause real stumbling blocks in organisations. Do you reward individuals or team success? Remember that what you reward is what you’ll get.
It’s a simple truth that most ideas aren’t highly sophisticated – the greatest strategies tend to centre on simple ideas of motivation and recognition, so encourage idea sharing and idea building within your team. Your people are your most valuable resource and so it’s important to find creative ways to tap into this.
Do all employees contribute to the bottom line?
Absolutely, and this is one of the single biggest mindset shifts an organisation can make. Imagine what would happen if the cleaner never came to work. Rubbish overflowing, dirty restrooms, no services for maintenance and client visits.
Once you understand the value that the cleaner adds to the organisation, you’ll start valuing everyone’s contributions to the overall whole. Encourage your managers to not only understand their own value, but encourage this thinking in their teams as well.
How important is it for teams to connect to corporate goals?
It’s incredibly important, but it’s also a double-sided issue. On the one hand, the organisation and its management are responsible for sharing the company’s goals.
You can’t expect everyone to connect to the company’s vision if they don’t fully understand what it is and how the goals contribute to attaining this.
Properly understanding and then connecting to the organisation’s goals is the difference between reactive and proactive employees, and dependant and co-dependant thinkers.
There’s a certain amount of responsibility for the employee as well. Employees need to know how they are adding value, and what the company is paying them for it. As the manager, encourage the team to find their motivators, their ‘why’ and to take ownership of their role in the organisation.
Too often we see a victim mentality where individuals see situations as happening to them, instead of how they can impact the world around them and their success within it. It’s all about an internal locus of control.
Encourage your team to engage with their own positions – make them a part of the solution. Ask them how they add value to the company, and expect an answer – get them to think about it.
A great way to foster engagement is by asking pertinent questions: What can contribute to this day? What will this day contribute to me?
Should organisations expect everyone to buy into their value systems?
Organisations need to look for value alignment. If an individual’s values are met (the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor), then by default they will buy into the business’s values. However, for this to work, each team member needs to be able to identify their own values, and evaluate how the company is helping them to achieve those values.
We only ever do things that serve us. Don’t expect buy-in on an organisational level if you don’t tap into that.
On the flip side, there will be some individuals whose values do not (and never will) align with those of the organisation. The situation won’t change, so it’s better for all parties involved if those employees move on.
In our courses, we run everything with full teams, and inevitably someone leaves after the course is complete. Invariably, the energy of the whole team and even the office changes for the better.
The organisation wins by rather utilising resources and energy on people who add value to the company as a whole.