New Managers: How to Effectively Communicate with Your Team

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You've finally been promoted to manager, and you’ve been assigned a project that requires a team approach. Trouble is, you’re not used to working with a team. You’re used to getting things done solo. First thing’s first; assemble your team and communicate what you want done. The operative word here is communicate. And therein lies the skill you may be lacking. 

To make you more efficient and effective on your next team project, Elizabeth Grace Saunders, founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress reveals four common communication challenges and how to overcome them.

Nip it in the Bud. A tiny miscommunication can snowball into a major misunderstanding. If you sense things are going awry, you must act fast to keep your project from going off the rails. A little corrective action early on can save you from a costly mid-course correction later.

Clarify deliverables. Be clear about telling every member of your team what you want, when you want it and what form that should take. Ideally, this should be in writing with each member of your team acknowledging their receipt and understanding exactly what’s expected of them.

Set (or reset) expectations. You need to adapt your natural communication style to the communication needs of your team and the project. Too little communication can cause anxiety. Too much communication can be annoying and be misinterpreted as micromanaging. And miscommunication creates frustration and errors. Here, Saunders suggests setting up a series of “If, Then” communication triggers, e.g., if you run into roadblock x, notify me ASAP. You can also make it clear not to be notified about things team members should be able to handle on their own.

Use Multiple Media. Team members vary in how they respond to communication. Use multiple mediums for your message--phone, e-mail, graphics, whatever works to convey key concepts every member of your team can understand.

Michael R. Lewis, management consultant, retired corporate executive and entrepreneur offers some additional communication tips in Money Crashers. He suggests that managers focus on problems, not personalities, and to follow the “24-Hour Rule” for any issue that might have emotional content. In other words, don’t send any email, message, letter, memo, or report to others until you’ve taken a day to make sure it communicates the facts and the tone you need to convey to subordinates. He also underscores the importance of managing individuals, not groups. Non-specific, broad-based memos or shotgun emails directed "to everyone and no one" allow recipient team members to avoid personal responsibility. Team members will simply feel that the directives don’t apply to them or that they have met the general directives outlined in your communication. Either way, you’ll have “a failure to communicate.” Lewis notes that group communications can be useful in conveying general information, education, and praise, but should be avoided for individual direction.

Want your project to go smoothly? Practice these fundamental communication skills to get your team working as one.

Image courtesy of Ambro/


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