Why The Way You Communicate Isn’t Working

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As a manager, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is probably the greatest single skill you can possess. Yet it’s quite a complex skill- requiring an ability to communicate with different types of people and across different mediums, while often navigating challenging topics like feedback and conflict.

Luckily, developing your communication skills is relatively easy once you identify WHY your current communication style isn’t working. We’ve put together a list of common communication mistakes that really trip managers up and get in the way of their ability to lead their team to success.

Do you recognise any mistakes you might be making in this list?

Common Communication Mistakes

1. One size does NOT fit all. The way people interpret information and process it differs quite considerably from one person to the next. Consider this: think of your group of friends, and how you would deliver big news to them differently, depending on the personality.

Your team is no different- where one person is content to hear major news via email, another will want to hear all the details in a group meeting, and yet another will want a one-on-one discussion to understand how it impacts them and the team.

2. You’re reacting, not responding. When we react, rather than taking the time to respond carefully, our emotions are often doing our thinking for us. For instance, if you find out your team is going to miss the deadline- and worse still, had known they were going to for days beforehand- then it’s very tempting to react by showing frustration.

However, this is actually a prime opportunity to find out more, such as asking: What went wrong? Why won’t the deadline be met? And why didn’t someone let you know earlier if it was obvious it would be missed? By responding with questions and processing things calmly, you can arrive at a measured response that actually works towards solving the problem.

3. You’re avoiding addressing difficult topics and feedback. This is possibly the most common communication error of them all- and the most dangerous. By not acting on issues as they arise, you are not only tacitly accepting the poor result or behaviour, but you’re robbing your team members of the information they need to improve.


4. Your communication style is underprepared or full of errors. If your presentation in the Monday meeting isn’t of top quality, or your emails to your team or reports are badly constructed or full of errors, then it can be quite difficult for your employees to look up to you as a manager. Be sure to carefully prepare and rehearse presentations, and always proofread and edit written communications before sending. If you need to undertake training for public speaking or writing skills, do so.

5. Your message is unclear. It’s not always easy to be clear about what you want people to do- particularly when you have lots of competing issues on your mind. It’s very possible that everyone is walking away from that rushed meeting with muddled expectations of what you asked for, or that your email request wasn’t very clear. Be sure to outline exactly what you want in clear steps. If it’s a meeting, get someone to explain in their own words what you just said, and follow up with a clear, bullet-pointed (and bullet-proof) email confirming what was said in the meeting. Also follow up on the project’s progress to ensure everyone knows what they need to be doing.

6. You’re not seeking to understand. Perhaps you’re reprimanding someone for not hitting targets, and not giving them a chance to explain why they didn’t. Perhaps you’ve jumped to a conclusion about a particular team member’s recent drop in performance, without finding out the real reason. Perhaps you just want everyone to do things your way, without understanding their ideas behind approaching things differently.

Ask questions rather than imposing your perception of the situation. ‘What do you think went wrong?’ ‘How do you feel about the project?’ By showing your team that you understand their pressures and different approaches to tasks, you’re establishing a strong communication habit built on trust.

7. You’re relying far too heavily on email. Good management relies on human interaction, not just emails flying back and forth. Many managers do most of their direction from behind a closed office door, and this undermines the personal communication needed for a strong and successful team. This tendency to hide behind a computer screen is at its worse when a manager uses email for major news such as, demotions or promotions. All things that significantly affect employees’ lives should always be carried out in person.


8. You’re sharing too little (or too much) information. If you don’t share enough information, your team members don’t understand how their efforts are working towards the major goal, while if you share too much information you can confuse people with extraneous information they don’t need to do their jobs. Make sure everyone understands the team goals and their precise role in getting there.

Communication delivered the right way is immensely powerful and can inspire, encourage and develop your team. On the other hand, a poor communication style can de-motivate, confuse and cause resentment. The choice is yours.


Alex & The Excel Team


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