Research shows that employees perform best when they feel valued, well-informed and are included in company activities and strategies. As leaders, it is important to maintain healthy connections with staff because productive and engaged staff will create positive results for customers and stakeholders. To maintain healthy connections, it is essential for leaders to be effective communicators.
Being an effective communicator does not mean you must be an incredible public speaker or conduct a grand performance when making an announcement or communicating with staff. Great leaders make genuine connections by building trust and sharing information and by practicing the three pillars of staff communication: transparency, authenticity and vulnerability.
Essentially, this means sharing what you can, as soon as you can. Many managers and leaders promise to be transparent with their communication but don’t follow through with it. The best leaders are consistently transparent with their communication, particularly during times of organisational change.
Transparent communication doesn’t mean you should provide every single detail. Messages should be tailored by audience, relevance and timing. At times, it may not be possible to share information due to confidentiality or financial regulations and when this occurs, share the reasoning for the lack of information with staff. Honesty is better then silence.
The key to transparent communication is to provide a steady flow of information and have easily accessible channels available for staff to provide input and feedback.
If transparency is what you communicate, then authenticity is how you communicate. Many leaders feel they must share information out of duty and choose to bury that information under layers of industry jargon. Hiding information or being ambiguous will be seen as insincere by staff and will likely hinder their ability to trust you.
Know your strengths as a communicator and utilise them. Not every communication has to take place in a formal meeting or an all-staff email. Take your team out of the office for a coffee meeting or check-in with them via online chat – find an appropriate and comfortable medium which plays to your strengths.
Moments of truth will present themselves occasionally and put your skills as an effective communicator to the test. You might be asked by staff about a process change or strategies to fix an issue. In this instance, the best communicators respond in a straightforward and honest manner – “I simply don’t know yet but will find out for you” or “I made a mistake”.
Some managers prefer to avoid this approach so as not to appear weak or lacking knowledge and opt to sidestep questions or shift responsibility elsewhere. It is, however, better to tackle issues directly, addressing them in the meeting and then following up with an email providing answers to their questions. This is a much better strategy to promote trust and open communication, particularly if you have already promised a transparent and authentic leadership style.
Communication with staff based on these three pillars will place you in a strong position to create genuine connections with them and foster healthy working relationships based on trust, confidence and respect.