So, you have one of the most talented people in your industry right under your roof. He’s a knowledgeable, insightful visionary who gives the organization a competitive edge. And he’s a manager, which means people skills is a part of the job. Problem is, that’s where he’s not a star.
Informally, and perhaps formally as part of the performance review process, you find that he’s building a reputation for himself as “difficult.”
How can you salvage him?
To be sure, effective communication can come naturally for some while require a little bit of work for others. The good news is, anyone can become a better communicator, which means better at connecting with coworkers and customers, and ultimately become a better manager.
All it takes is some training and consistent reinforcement to help replace bad habits with good ones. In other words, it may take some coaching.
In reading this, if someone you know has come to mind, then maybe that someone could use some communications coaching. Here are some steps you can take to help that employee on the road to better communication:
Establish a Baseline
How you do this is very situational. In some cases, you may not want to single the individual employee out, but rather, introduce a corrective process with some subtlety, perhaps more broadly to include several managers in a particular division. In other cases, it may need to be more directly communicated. Regardless, you need some set of broad measures from which to base analysis of future progress.
These could include documenting informal feedback from the individual’s coworkers. Analysis of recent performance review reports. If the review report is not sufficiently detailed on the communications challenges he may be facing, consider a specific and confidential assessment from those who work with him and his supervisor.
If the organization conducts larger employee attitude surveys, see if any data from that can be applied to this individual manager.
One thing to know before you start is to know whether the individual has any diagnosed issues that could be contributing to his behavior. If some things are beyond the individual’s control, that could affect the way you proceed.
Be Up Front with the Manager
Once you’ve begun this process, at the appropriate time, let the manager know of the organization’s concerns and what it is willing to do to make him a better, more valued member of the organization.
Not only is this the right thing to do, but by communicating in this way very clearly, the employee knows that he has to change, that there is a process in place to help him change, and that it will be monitored and evaluated along the way to give him incentive to take this process seriously.
Bring in an Objective Third Party for Coaching
When you bring in an objective third party for coaching, such as an executive coach, a communications coach, or even a counselor, you will eliminate certain challenges to the corrective process. A third party can affirm what you’ve noticed or give you new insights as to the cause and nature of the challenges. The outside professional will have his or her own relationship with the manager and can establish trust independently of any internal workplace dynamics that may exist. And it will remove the sense of subjectivity on both the organization’s part and the manager’s.
Start with Listening
No employee or coworker will ever complain about a manager who is a good listener. But listening is a skill. Coaching should start with a focus on doing a self-inventory of listening habits, both good and bad.
Then there should be a discussion on how to become an active listener, which means knowing when to ask questions, which questions to ask, and when to simply let employees speak. During coaching, role-playing exercises are an invaluable way to imprint new habits.
Tied to the passive nature of listening is the need for the manager to document certain concerns or questions from employees and then to follow up. That is how employees truly know their managers listen to them.
Become Knowledgeable on How to Communicate more Effectively
Coaching should cover everything from body language and tone, to word choice and the right approach to individual situations, particularly when it comes to instructing subordinates, conversing with them, or giving feedback.
That’s why regular coaching is much more helpful than a one-time workshop. One session cannot instill discipline and help the manager best identify and respond to his own managerial challenges.
Please feel free to share this, or let me know if you have any specific workplace communications issues to discuss.