According to a meta-study by the Institute for Leadership in the Digital Age, the subject of communication continues to be a manager’s main task.
But what does good communication mean in leadership? In today’s blog, I’d like to share typical “mistakes” in conversations which I observe over and over in my training sessions and assessments, and show you how you can avoid these obstacles.
1. Good preparation
Especially in difficult and emotionally charged situations and discussions, it is imperative that the manager is prepared, at least mentally. If the manager is not clear on what he wants to achieve in the discussion, then it is doomed to failure.
The core question of leadership is: How do I get my employees to follow me? Leadership always has something to do with providing direction. Therefore, it is important to clarify in advance in which direction I want the conversation to go, and, ideally, I should look at the topic from the employee’s point of view.
2. Balance of speaking time
A discussion should always be a dialogue. Some managers, however, speak for seventy to eighty percent of the time during a discussion. This is more like a monologue. Too much speaking time on the part of the manager can bring on the following dangers: It is difficult for the employee to separate important things from unimportant ones; sometimes core messages get lost. If the manager dominates the discussion too much, the employee becomes a consumer and is not actively involved when the time comes for creating suggestions to resolve issues.
3. Listen carefully
Sometimes one can observe that managers do not listen attentively when discussing with employees, i.e. they do not respond to verbal and / or nonverbal signals from their discussion partner actively. If the employee’s signals and messages are not perceived and considered, this often leads to employees withdrawing and not feeling appreciated. Therefore, sometimes, there is no real exchange, but the discussion proceeds as two parallel lines which never touch each other.
4. You are not the source of every solution
Generally speaking, It is positive when a manager takes on responsibility and develops solutions. If all the solutions in a discussion come from the manager, without the employee making a contribution, then the employee is never given the opportunity to reflect on himself. Self-reflection, however, is an important prerequisite for assuring that solutions and impulses for behavioral change are accessible and sustainable.
5. Critical topics: Find the right balance
As you know, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. If you say something in an overfriendly way or so that the other person cannot hear it, i.e. If the manager beats around the bush in critical situations and tries to avoid conflict, the employee cannot really become aware of the problem. Going to the other extreme, the way something is said can be so prevalent that it distracts from what is being said (the content). In this case, resistance and emotion are triggered on a personal level. The more emotions are involved, however, the smaller the chance that topics will be resolved objectively.
6. Clarity and commitment
Sometimes topics are addressed and first ideas are developed, but these often fall flat, if they are not created to be binding for both parties and / or the parties go on their own ways without making commitments.
In the following, you will find a checklist with some key questions to prepare yourself for discussions, to stay on top of things during a discussion or to engage in self-reflection after the discussion.
Checklist for successful employee discussions
1. Objective: What exactly do I want to achieve during the discussion? How will I know that I have reached my goal?
2. Speaking Time: How balanced is the amount of speaking time of both parties in the discussion? How can I reduce my share of the speaking time and enable the employee to be more active?
3. Listening: Did I really understand what my employee just told me? How does my discussion partner come across? What signals does my employee send through his body language (facial expression, gestures)?
4. Solutions: Which solutions do I have? Which proposals and solutions does my employee have? Which solutions can be applied best to the original situation?
5. Criticism: Have I addressed critical topics clearly enough, but at the same time shown appreciation for my employee? Do my messages help raise my employee’s awareness of the problem or trigger resistance?
6. Commitment: What concrete results have we created in the discussion? What are the next steps and deadlines? Who is responsible for what? Are the results, responsibilities and next steps clear to my discussion partner?
I am looking forward to interacting with you. What do you think about the subject? What are the biggest obstacles in employee discussions in your opinion? Your feedback, your experience and suggestions are welcome!
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