There are many factors that make successfully communicating at work difficult. To better understand how to communicate with others, it’s important to understand how people interpret our messages. Take a look at the following statistics:
- 55% of message interpretation is based on facial expressions and body language.
- 37% is based on the tone of their voice.
- 8% is based on the words they say.
Clearly, better communication with your team is about much more than the words you use. It’s a total body experience. That being said, there are several phrases that you can work into your business vernacular that will help you and your team members understand each other and work as efficiently and joyfully as possible.
1. I trust you.
Fostering an environment of trust is one of the most difficult jobs of a successful leader.
It’s important for you and your team to be reminded that you depend on them, so say it concretely: I trust you.
You count on their productivity, ideas, and skills to get the job done, and they’ll be better at all of those things once they have a sense of confidence and autonomy.
2. This is the situation, and here’s what I’m thinking.
It’s difficult to complete a project when you’re operating on a “need to know” basis. Not only is it frustrating for your staff to try to work without all the facts, but they’ll also start to speculate in an attempt to fill in the communication gaps. This leads to misunderstandings and poor organization, in addition to robbing yourself of the insights from valued team members.
Because you trust them (and they know as much because you’ve been telling them you do), it’s important to be transparent with team members. Share the complete facts. This includes the current state of affairs, your plans, and your current decision-making process. No one likes to feel left out of the loop, and no one likes to have big decisions sprung up on them. Transparency ensures your whole team is on the same page.
It might seem daunting or unwise to share everything with your team, but it’s an effective management solution. In fact, Sam Walton, founder of Wal-mart, has practiced transparency for decades. Wal-mart’s Saturday Morning Meeting is equal parts “talk show, financial update, encounter group, merchandising workshop, town-hall forum, talent revue, gripe session, and pep rally,” and it works.
3. What do you need? What do you want?
As managers, we can always improve. Perhaps a team member’s output is suffering because their needs aren’t being met, but you haven’t created an open communication channel where this person feels comfortable saying so. In a one-on-one meeting, check in with every member of your group.
What do you need?
Your job isn’t to micromanage. It’s to provide the tools that allow your group to perform at their best. Be proactive in making sure that everyone is fully prepared to put their best foot forward.
What do you want?
Sometimes a lack of success doesn’t come from team members who don’t have the right tools. Instead, they are genuinely unhappy with the organization as a whole. Or maybe they are doing very well, but you feel they haven’t reached their full potential yet. By privately asking people what they want, you can help identify those who would be a better fit somewhere else. Depending on their answer, you might need to move around their projects or accounts or perhaps help them see they need to part ways with your team altogether.
4. Why don’t you explain…?
As a leader, it’s important to ask questions. This one in particular works two-fold.
When asked in a brainstorming session, this simple question gives your team members an opportunity to step into the spotlight and share their best ideas. You don’t hog all the attention, and your team has an open avenue to comfortably put ideas on the table and explain the reason they think an idea will work.
On the other hand, this is an important question to ask to hold people accountable for their actions.
People screw up; it happens. Asking this question gives them a chance to clarify how a mistake or failure came to fruition, and in turn, you get a better understanding of a situation before you draw your own conclusions and (potentially) reprimand them unfairly.
5. Congratulations! Let’s celebrate.
Reward your accomplishments – big or small, personal or professional. Did your team member just get engaged? Did your new sales associate close her first deal? It’s worth mentioning!
Depending on the accomplishment, the reward might be as big as an office party or as simple as a phone call at the end of the week. No matter what, let your team know that you notice when they knock something out of the park, and you care. Celebrating as a group lifts everyone’s spirits and encourages them to be the next one to meet a major milestone.