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Why do employees quit? Is it because their tasks and responsibilities don’t live up to their expectations? Or because they’re surrounded by gossipy or unsupportive coworkers? Or is it because the coffee in the break room is really that bad?
Sure, all of those things play a part in why employees decide to hit the road (cough, especially the bitter coffee).
But here’s the main reason why good employees leave: to get away from their managers.
Yikes. That’s right—a staggering 57% of employees have quit because of their boss.
There’s a lot that goes into being a successful manager, but your leadership communication is a huge piece of the puzzle. 91% of employees say poor communication can hurt their relationship with their boss.
If effective communication was easy, everybody would knock it out of the park. Needless to say, it can be challenging at best. Let’s dig into why leadership communication matters and how you can do it right.
The proof is in the pudding, and there’s no better way to emphasize the importance of leadership communication than with cold, hard facts. Here are some compelling statistics that highlight why successful communication and reliable leadership is non-negotiable:
This means that when leaders communicate effectively, they can reap the following benefits:
Sound too good to be true? We promise it’s not.
The benefits of leadership communication are obvious, yet only one in three employees feel their leaders communicate efficiently.
You don’t want to be part of that statistic, which is why we’ve pulled together these 10 important strategies for improving your communication as a leader.
Relevant F4S motivation: Shared responsibility
As a manager, you’re privy to a lot of company data and high-level conversations that employees don’t have access to. Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to forget that your direct reports don’t share your same visibility.
As their leader, it’s your responsibility to equip them with the transparency they need—especially when it comes to broader business objectives. Research from Gartner found that only 47% of employees reported understanding the business goals of their organization, which is proof that managers aren’t doing a great job of connecting the dots.
How do you improve transparency? You can start by:
Those are just a few ideas, and there are plenty more possibilities. The point is to remember that things that are common knowledge to you aren’t obvious to your team members. You need to over-communicate to ensure important information isn’t missed.
Relevant F4S motivation: Depth
Think your team members know exactly what they should be doing day in and day out? Think again. Gallup states that half of employees don’t know what’s expected of them at work. In a separate poll conducted by Harris and Interact, 57% of employees said a lack of clear directions is a problem for them.
While you want to avoid micromanaging, it’s obvious that there’s room for more clarity between supervisors and their employees.
The best way to do this is by setting goals for your employees. This gives them crystal clear targets to work toward. For best results, use the SMART goal framework where the goals you set are:
Additionally, when you wrap up meetings—whether it’s your weekly team conversation or a one-on-one with an employee—talk through action items, who’s responsible for them, and when they need to be completed. That will ensure that everybody walks away from that sitdown on the same page.
Relevant F4S motivation: People
Want employees who are more committed to your organization and are eager to do their best work? Well, you need to make them feel valued.
Constructive feedback is important (and we’ll talk about that next), but you can’t get so focused on helping employees improve that you neglect to applaud them for the things they’re already doing well.
Make praise and recognition a core part of your team culture by:
Relevant F4S motivation: Evolution
When you know that praise is so important to your direct reports, it’s tempting to think that they only want pats on the back and glowing reviews. But, that’s not true. Your employees crave constructive criticism too.
96% of employees say that receiving feedback regularly is a good thing. So, while delivering these types of remarks can inspire some sweaty palms, it’s worth doing.
How do you do it well? Feedback intended to help your direct reports improve is usually best done one-on-one (instead of in a group). Being corrected or directed in front of everybody can be somewhat overwhelming or even embarrassing.
Additionally, be specific with your feedback by offering examples. The more targeted and well-supported your comments are, the more helpful they’ll be. Avoid group language and instead deliver constructive criticism using singular pronouns. For example:
“I’ve noticed that you don’t speak up in team meetings.”
“Everybody notices that you don’t speak up in team meetings.”
That seemingly small change will avoid making your employee feel ganged up on.
Relevant F4S motivation: Future
Let’s talk a little more about delivering feedback, because it’s an important element of leadership communication. Plus, when only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work, it’s crucial to be mindful of how you’re delivering criticism.
Gallup advises that feedback conversations should be future-focused, and managers should aim to answer questions like:
That’s far better than doling out observations or reprimands about past interactions and performance. “They paint a vision for the future—a portrait of success—and establish ongoing dialogue with employees that helps them comfortably discuss issues they encounter along the way,” Ben Wigert and Nate Dvorak explain in that same Gallup post.
Relevant F4S motivation: Affiliation
Effective communication isn’t something that you should prioritize or do when you think about it. It needs to be constant on your team, especially when 31% of employees wish their manager communicated with them more frequently.
How can you ensure you’re keeping the lines of communication open with your team? A few ideas include:
All of those opportunities for work discussions are important, but they shouldn’t make up the entirety of your communication with employees.
23% of employees say that they think it’s a problem that their managers don’t ask about their lives outside of work. So, make sure that you incorporate some more personal small talk every now and then, as well as provide plenty of opportunities for your team to forge social connections with each other.
Relevant F4S motivation: External reference
Being a leader isn’t just about offering feedback—it’s about receiving it as well. Your employees likely have suggestions and ideas that they’re eager to share.
But, when 34% of workers think their companies don’t listen to their ideas to improve the business, they probably aren’t going to be willing to bring that feedback to you if you don’t open the door.
In your team meetings and your one-on-ones, dedicate some time to ask employees if they have any feedback they’d like to share. Whether it’s a note about the workload of the team or a direction they found confusing, that’s a time when you can get a lot of valuable insights that help you become a better leader.
When your team members share feedback, remember you can’t just hear them—you need to listen to them. Demonstrate your active listening skills by:
Relevant F4S motivation: Affective communication
Have you heard about emotional intelligence (often known as EQ) and it’s importance in effective leadership?
Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of other people. Believe it or not, it’s the strongest predictor of performance.
As Harvard Business School explains, the four components of emotional intelligence include:
By working on each of those elements, you’ll be able to pick up on other factors—like body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and context clues—that will directly impact your communication with your direct reports.
Relevant F4S motivation: Goal orientation
Here’s a frightening fact: Only 42% of employees say they trust their boss. Yet, trust is the foundation of positive, productive relationships in the workplace. If trust doesn’t exist, communicating successfully is an uphill battle.
Fortunately, establishing and building trust is relatively straightforward: You need to follow through on your promises. Do what you said you were going to do. When you make that a habit, your employees will realize that you’re trustworthy and always act with integrity.
To avoid making promises you can’t keep, you also need to be willing to admit when you don’t have all of the answers. It’s always better to be honest with employees about uncertainty or challenges you’re facing, rather than sweeping them under the rug or pretending you know the best way forward.
Relevant F4S motivation: Tolerance
Communication is personal—not everybody on your team will communicate exactly the same way. As the leader, you need to be able to tailor your approach to each individual employee.
Not sure how to effectively communicate with your different team members? Well, ask them. It can be as simple as sending out a brief questionnaire to your team to ask them questions like:
If you implement the strategies we outlined above, you’re sure to take your leadership communication skills up a notch.
But keep in mind that, much like leadership in general, it’s a constant work in progress. You’ll make some mistakes, collect some valuable feedback, and find out more about what works for you and your team.
Commit to the process. You won’t become a flawless communicator or leader overnight (or—let’s face it—maybe ever), but taking steps to improve is well worth the time and energy.