Communication Advice from a Management Coach

The March 2011 issue of Infoline, a publication of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), focuses on the topic “middle management acument.” The author, Lisa Haneberg–a management coach with 25 years of experience–shares her insights about the skills that middle managers need in order to motive and inspire employees, “micro-realign” them through daily interactions, and boost the overall success of the organization.

Not surprisingly, the first skill discussed is “effective relationship building,” and the focus is on–you guessed it–effective communication. As Haneberg says, “communication is the currency by which you build relationships, and nothing is more important.”

Her list of five common communication errors that managers make will sound familiar to most of us:

–the sender isn’t “respected or liked,” so people don’t listen.  My elaboration: Having a track record of being honest, skillful, and personable is critical to successful managerial communication. A sweet-talking email won’t work if the manager hasn’t supported the “talk” with the “walk.”

–“the message is vague or unclear.” My elaboration: Skillful use of organization, word choice, sentence structure and paragraphing, and formatting is essential for communication success.

–the chosen method “does not match the message.” My elaboration: The medium is part of the message. Knowing what message each medium conveys is an important part of communication skill.

–“the sender does not modify the style of the message to suit the audience.” My elaboration: If there’s one core rule of good business communication, it’s to adapt the message to the audience. Not to do risks miscommunication as well as the damaging of relationships.

–“the message is more ‘push’ than ‘pull.'” Haneberg’s elaboration: “People prefer to be enrolled and engaged, not directed. Middle managers should take time and care to pull people into the topic by creating interest and commitment.”

To a great extent, management is communication. Thus, when we advise our students on their business communication, we are also preparing them to adopt the managerial roles that most of them seek. Helping them see the intimate connection between what we are teaching and their future professional success may increase their motivation to learn. And sharing insights like Haneberg’s with them won’t hurt, either.

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