Communication Skills: 5 Ways Supervisors Can Communicate More Effectively | SOS Podcast
The ability to effectively communicate is a requisite requirement for supervisors. Unfortunately, it’s an area where many struggle and most could benefit from learning and development opportunities. In this SoS short episode, we distinguish the differences between communication and effective communication. More importantly, we provide 5 recommendations for ways supervisors can communicate more effectively.
The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Join us today as we explore the ways and means of effective communication. Hello, and thank you for joining us. My name is Joe White and I'm the host of Supervisor Skills: Secrets of Success. The SOS podcast series is produced to create ongoing development opportunities for mid and frontline managers. With each episode, we take on topics of interest and share insights and perspectives for the benefit of our listeners. In today's SOS short episode, we're talking about communication. More importantly, we're talking about effective communication. Communicating effectively is a prerequisite to your success as a supervisor, and is something you must constantly work to improve. As with our opening quote by George Bernard Shaw, we can't fall victim to the illusion that is taken place when it hasn't. I know this is an important topic and it's my sincere hope that we'll be able to share some information that you'll find of value today.
In a recent study of companies with 100 thousand or more employees, the average cost of poor communications exceeded $62 million per year. As for smaller companies, those with 100 or fewer employees, the annual cost is estimated to be in excess of $400 thousand per year. Communication breakdowns occur far more often than we may realize and have a direct and costly impact on the bottom line when they do. In reality, communication is easy. It involves the use of words, sound, signs, and behaviors to express ideas, faults, feelings, and soul. Effective communication, however, is something completely different. It occurs only when your message is received, understood, and if necessary, acted upon. Communication by definition is measured from the perspective of the sender. It's for this reason that the illusion it has taken place is such a problem for us. Effective communication is measured from the perspective of the receiver, which is a very important point of distinction.
To put this into perspective, consider watching your favorite football team. The quarterback routinely throws the ball close to targets, but often misses the mark with passes falling incomplete, and just out of reach of receivers. The fact that the ball is thrown at or near targets is irrelevant. For teams to win, they must score. To score, receivers must receive passes on target. For you to succeed as a supervisor, you must communicate in a matter that connects with recipients and results in understanding - and if necessary, action. How effective are we at communicating? In a recent smart survey, 57% of employees indicated they don't believe they're given clear direction. 65% said they want more feedback, and 91% feel their supervisors lack skills needed to communicate effectively. We have a lot of work to do to improve communication skills. Fortunately, doing so will help us in just about every aspect of our job. Where do you start? What can you do to improve communication skills? Here are five recommendations based on proven strategies that have helped others:
1. Clarify points to be made.
Before communicating with others, take the time needed to clarify desired outcomes. Is it to inform, seek input, or to initiate action? When possible, develop a summarized listing of points to be made that aligns with your intended outcomes. Communication strategies must be built around these points.
2. Consider your audience a recipient.
Years ago, when I first got out of college, I was assigned to a construction project working for DuPont. I heard the term "cherry picker" used in reference to an aerial personnel lift. I had no clue what it meant, but I was reluctant to admit it out of fear of embarrassment. Consider the level of experience, background, and needs of those you'll be addressing. This is especially important for new employees. Avoid using jargon, acronyms, and industry slang, as it can and often does lead to confusion.
3. Determine the best mode of communication.
As they say in fly fishing, "you have to match the hatch" or in the context of our topic - use the method most fitting for the message. When possible communicate verbally one-on-one. If unable to do so, communicate in small groups where dialogue and collaboration can take place. As a last resort, use written communication to share information with employees. Bear in mind that nonverbal cues are very important in the communication process. Those cues don't convey in writing.
4. Consider communication styles and preferences.
Borrowing from the "match the hatch" comment, use the communication style most preferred when engaging with employees. As a supervisor, it's important that you get to know your employees. A benefit of doing so involves a better understanding of how to connect with them most effectively on an individual basis. Some employees want facts and data, while others are moved by anecdotal stories and experiences. Communication styles and preferences of direct reports vary and is an important consideration you should take into account - especially when follow up action is needed or performance outcomes are critical.
5. Verify understanding.
Of all the things that you can do to improve communication skills, few are more effective than steps taken to ensure understanding. Asking employees if you've overlooked anything, or if they have any suggestions to improve upon your communication will certainly help. Another technique worth consideration is to have employees play back in their own words what they heard you say. If you do this often, you'll be surprised at just how often confusion exists, where clarity of understanding was presumed.
Effective communication is essential to your success as a supervisor. It's a skill that requires constant effort to improve, and one that's foundational to nearly everything you do in your job. When breakdowns in communication do occur, humble yourself and assume responsibility for learning from it. Forget placing blame and do everything within your power to grow from the experience. If you're able to do this, you'll quickly earn the respect of those you routinely interact with and will learn a great deal in the process.
Thank you for joining us. I hope this information will help you grow and improve as a supervisor. We look forward to sharing additional podcasts with you in the months ahead and welcome any suggestions you might have or topics you would like to see us cover. We're always looking for guests who enjoy sharing insights and success stories from the field. If that's something you would like to be a part of, just let us know. The SOS podcast series is brought to you by AEU Lead, a consultancy dedicated to the needs of mid and frontline supervisors. We value and appreciate any feedback and would encourage you to review and rate your experience with this show, wherever you access your podcast. For additional information about AEU Lead, or to follow us on social media, please use the links in the show notes accompanying this episode. That's it for now. Stay safe and thanks for listening.
About Joe White
As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.