By design, a manager’s job is to manage people. This requires telling your staff what to work on and then providing them feedback on their job performance. It also requires that you provide upper management with the status of projects, accomplishments and issues. At a department level, it’s also your role to facilitate the coordination with other department such as HR, finance and your peer departments. The bottom line is that the better you communicate, the easier it will be for you to become an effective manager.
Depending on your professional area and your personal strengths and weaknesses, good communication can be a difficult thing to achieve. From an educational perspective, I went to college for accounting and computer information systems. Of the fifty classes I took over four years as an undergraduate student, only one optional elective dealt with personal communication. This was a class on public speaking.
For many of us, particularly those of us in technical roles, we were told that we did such a good job as an individual contributor in our profession area, that we should take a new job (as manager) where we had no formal training, no on-the-job experience, and no formal education on proper business communication. Thus, a new manager was born.
As a manager, communication takes many forms, as outlined below.
- Justify your budget requirements
- Write status reports
- Make presentation to justifying hiring needs
- Giving work direction to your team
- Write and give performance reviews
- Facilitate staff meeting
- Participating in cross-department activities
When looking at the list above, you will see that this manager-based communication comes in three primary forms: written text, formal presentations, and personal interaction. Take comfort in knowing that most people are not great in all three.
The trick for you, as a manager is twofold. First, lead with your strengths. Second, work to improve your weaknesses to an acceptable level by practice, instruction, and ongoing mentoring/support.
I’ll use myself as an example, I think I write well (I hope you think so too), but I proofread very poorly. I’m somewhat dyslexic and words like “from” and “form” or missing pronouns in sentences are totally missed by my proofreading eye. Also, I skim received emails, rather than read them deeply.
I compensate for these personal challenges by, if appropriate;
- Returning what could be lengthy written emails with phone calls
- Have my presentations and written documents (including the column) proofread by someone else
- Tell my staff to include the word “important” in the subject line if they want to make sure I read it
The moral of the story here is not to learn what I do, but to understand none of us are perfect. We all have communication-based strengths and weaknesses. Some people hate to do public speaking. Some people consider themselves to be very poor writers. Other people are less comfortable with one-on-one personal interaction.
The trick is that if you just feel uncomfortable communicating, regardless of the communication medium, step outside your comfort zone and try it. You may find that over time your skills improve, or you develop procedures to compensate for areas of personal challenge. Who knows, in some cases you may grow to like a previously dreaded activity and move a personal weakness to a professional strength.