Do you ever feel like no one understands you? Does it seem like you can't get your message across? Everyone struggles with effective communication, especially new managers. In this two-part series, you'll learn how to avoid getting lost in translation.
What is Your Communication Style?
In order for your team to understand you, you'll need to understand yourself first. Take a second to think about how you approach work. What are your values? What motivates you? How do you make decisions? Compare your answers to the characteristics in the following chart.
There are four basic styles of communication: Direct, Expressive, Logical and Supportive. Identify which category you fit into. Most women tend to lean toward the emotional side of the spectrum due to gender norms. Being expressive and supportive are traditionally feminine traits. Women who exhibit more masculine characteristics are often successful leaders, but aren't always regarded as "likable."
Once you understand your type, you can learn to make adjustments and give clear instructions.
Direct: Be Confident, Not Cocky
If you decided that you are a direct communicator, you probably already know how to give orders. You have no problem telling other people what to do and you rarely doubt yourself. Those qualities most likely contributed to your advancement into a leadership role.
However, only focusing on the bottom-line might put a strain on your relationship with your employees. Your team members may be intimidated by your confidence. They might avoid approaching you with questions for fear of disrupting or annoying you.
How To Improve: While your assignments might be crisp and concise, they might not be personal, relatable, or detailed. When giving instructions, try to be encouraging and communicate how you value your employees. You have a team for a reason and that reason is you can't do everything on your own. Take a little more time to describe the details of the task and be more open to collaboration.
Cocky: "Ted, go fix the printer."
Confident: "Ted, I know you're good at solving problems. Please take a look at the printer today. The paper seems to be jammed, because the red light keeps flashing. Let me know what you think is the culprit and how much you think it'll cost to fix."
Expressive: Be Passionate, Not Selfish
If you realized that you're an expressive communicator, you probably had some strong feelings about it. You are extremely passionate about the work you do and have a ton of creative ideas. You tend to put your whole heart into your job and will fight for what you believe in.
However, those strong feelings might get in the way of productivity. You might become so absorbed with your grand plan that you ignore the steps required to get there. Your team might feel overwhelmed by your expectations or afraid to approach you with suggestions.
How To Improve: Your instructions may be enthusiastic, but they might not be concise. Take time to consider the bigger picture and the resources necessary to complete the task. Make sure your instructions include specific and practical details about deadlines, milestones, budgets, etc. Avoid exaggerations and try to include evidence instead of opinions.
Selfish: "OH MY GOSH! If I don't get these photos printed RIGHT NOW our client is going to hate us. It's going to be the end as we know it!!!!! Ted, drop everything and FIX THE PRINTER!!! I don't care what it takes, JUST GET IT DONE.
Passionate: URGENT: This project is a top priority and I'm very excited to show these photos to our client at 3pm tomorrow! Ted, could you please take a look at the printer as soon as possible? It's okay if the Smith Project is delayed for a few days. Feel free to use any of the resources from your department. If we need a repair technician, please make sure we stay under budget. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks Ted!
Logical: Be Understanding, Not Micro-Managing
If you know you're a logical communicator, you've probably thought about how unique you are. You tend to plan out your tasks and are very organized. You're extremely productive, structured and have high standards. You know how important the details are and how they fit together in the larger plan.
However, expecting every detail to be perfect can create unrealistic expectations. You might find yourself micro-managing your team, because you don't trust that they can get the job done the way you can. Your employees might feel you don't value them or believe in their abilities.
How To Improve: Try to have a little more faith in your team. Take the time to get to know your employees and learn their strengths. If you match tasks with talent, you'll feel much more confident about letting someone else take over. Also keep in mind that your way might not be the best way. When giving instructions, list the parameters of the assignment, but don't overwhelm with details.
Micro-Managing: The printer isn't working properly. The red light is flashing because the paper is jammed. Please stop working on the Smith Project at 1:15pm. Open the paper tray and look for any sign of crumpled paper. The paper is photo paper because I need to print photos by tomorrow at 3pm for our new client. We're meeting in the conference room. If there is crumpled paper, remove it. If not, check to make sure there are no obstructions. The manual is in the top cabinet next to the printer. The cabinet has other manuals, don't move those. Check page 34 for paper jam protocol. Follow the steps in the manual to troubleshoot. Check in with me every 15 minutes and let me know your progress. If you can't do this Ted, let me know and I'll add it to my to-do list.
Understanding: Ted, the printer isn't working properly. The red light is flashing because the paper is jammed. I'd appreciate if you could please investigate since you're tech savvy. Please give this problem priority over the Smith Project. There's a manual in the cabinet next to the printer if you need it. Please check back in with me at the end of today and let me know if it's fixed or not. I appreciate your help!
Supportive: Be Respectful, Not Nice
If you're a supportive communicator, you're probably happy to be the cheerleader. You like to promote peace and harmony in the office and thrive on the opportunity to make connections. You are dependable and will go the extra mile to make your employees feel at ease.
However, you've fallen into the classic feminine trap. When you only focus on making other people happy, it can lead to sacrificing productivity, profit or even your own personal needs. Now that you're in a management role, you need to learn to embrace conflict. If you don't enforce deadlines or give constructive criticism, your employees will walk all over you. The goal is to have your employees respect you, not necessarily be your friend.
How To Improve: Practice being more direct and concise. When giving instructions, be specific about your expectations. Establish yourself as an authority figure who is responsible for the success of the company. Communicate priorities, deadlines and restrictions. Avoid including irrelevant content, filler words and qualifiers.
Nice: Hi Ted! I just wanted to say that I think you're doing an amazing job on the Smith Project! Way to go! :) I was also kind of wondering if you happen to have any extra time today? I think that the printer might possibly not be working. I've got a meeting with the new client tomorrow. I think it will be a really awesome opportunity for all us! So I was wondering since you're so smart, if you could please help me and look at it. If not, I totally understand that you're busy. Please let me know at some point :) :) Thanks so much! :D :D
Respectful: Hi Ted! Great progress on the Smith Project! However, we've got a situation so please put that on the back burner. The printer is jammed and I could use your expertise to fix it. Please take a look at it today. Thanks, I appreciate your help! :)
Now that you understand your communication style, you can give more clear instructions. Effective managers know how to use all of the communication styles to create a balanced and well-rounded team. Stay tuned next week for Part 2!