We’ve all worked in organisations where we’ve seen certain leaders promoted due to their technical skills rather than people skills, which can cause us IC folk a world of pain sometimes.
If you work in a large organisation, with a remote workforce, you are probably highly dependent on these leaders in sharing messages with their teams. Often problems arise when these messages are either misinterpreted or misunderstood which can be very challenging.
It can lead to the workforce receiving mixed messages and gossip taking over. Leaders can often become defensive or panic when questions arise leading to more worry and apprehension. So how can we support HR and the senior leadership team to make sure we get these leaders skilled up in communicating effectively.
- Keep it simple. These line managers are busy people with other priorities in place. It’s our role to make sure we give them information that’s easy to digest and communicate. Handing over a four-page document full of text and complicated messaging is not ideal. Keep it short and use bullet points. If you need the team to do something make sure you make it clear by labelling what the action quite clearly, don’t make them read reams of information. Try adding it to the start in a bit of a summary with a priority label so they know the urgency. Consider the area where they are communicating as well. Is it in the operation? On the shop floor? If so, take on board the lack of technology and the number of people in the room. In one organisation we created large performance boards that leaders could talk around. It was simple and effective.
- Training. Lunch ‘n learns can be very effective for line managers. These short bitesize sessions can allow them to understand various comms channels and how they can make it work for their department. It may not be possible to host face-to-face sessions over lunch in your organisation so think about creating something a bit different that line managers can refer to, like an online webinar, a dedicated space in yammer etc. In previous organisations we’ve distributed line manager toolkits to every new leader which covered things like: How to deliver a briefing, Supporting teams during difficult change, Using email effectively etc.
- Don’t replicate. To be a true support and be effective you need to understand the manager and the issues that may be facing them. Are they uncomfortable in large groups? Do they prefer smaller sessions? Do they like to say messages in their own words? Whatever their strengths are try and play on them. If they prefer going adhoc then don’t give them a written script, short bullets that they need to cover should suffice. If they don’t like addressing large groups then help them create smaller drop-in surgeries or informal briefings. It can be challenging when you are on your own but focus on the teams that require the support. Look at engagement scores, sickness records and retention. Undertake focus groups and ask colleagues what they would prefer. Sometimes one size does not fit all, even if that’s easier.
Let me know if you have any further tips or ideas on how you’ve worked with line managers in your organisation. You can find me over on twitter @advita_p.
Photo credit: Ethan Weil