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Are you making one of these 5 top communication mistakes?

Bad communication can be hugely damaging for workplaces. When the simplest of instructions get lost in translation they can be misinterpreted. This can be costly both in terms of time and money. When communication is lacklustre, otherwise enthusiastic employees can become disheartened and lack morale. The result – low productivity and a disengaged workforce.

So where are we going wrong? Here we take a look at five of the top mistakes employees and leaders can all be guilty of when it comes to communicating effectively.

Was that the brief?!

Does it sometimes seem your team are incapable of doing what you’ve asked them to? It could be down to the brief you’ve delivered them.

When outlining a project, clarity is paramount. Misinterpretation at this early stage will have a knock-on effect throughout. Individuals won’t achieve what they need to, and schedules will start to slip, resulting in a project that is over time and over budget.

Clearly communicating a brief should be a dialogue with your team. It should ideally be done in person, or over video-conference, with supporting documents provided. They should set out what teams need to do, when by and why, i.e. exactly what needs to be achieved. When a briefing is a two-way open dialogue, employees have the opportunity to ask for clarification or more detail and understanding is improved from the get-go.

Change your tune

Just as actions speak louder than words, how you say something can have more impact than what you are actually saying. We can all be guilty of expressing ourselves emotionally, particularly in times of crisis. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it shows you are invested and passionate about the project. But, in a position of leadership you must ensure that the line is not crossed and that your tone is not edgy, or unprofessional.

The simplest way to change your tune is by getting into the habit of pausing before you speak, especially when tensions are high in a challenging situation. Just as you would save an email to drafts ahead of sending to ensure your message is not misconstrued, take a breath before you talk. That way what you want to say is less likely to come out in a reactive way or with an underlying tone of anger, or passive aggression.

That fwd: email

Leaders are by nature, busy people. And so, it is all too easy to overlook where a little more articulation may be needed, but failure to do so could cause problems further down the line. One example of this, and one that we believe many of us can hold our hands up to, is forwarding an email.

Whilst quick and easy to redirect information with a couple of clicks, the issue with forwarding an email to a member of your team is that they may be left wondering if it is for information only or instructional. The same goes for cc’ing someone into a thread, or assigning tickets. Are they simply being kept in the loop? Or are you wishing for them to perform a task? Just a note or sentence at the top of the email or ticket is all it takes. A little clarity can go a long way in these situations.

Getting a robot to do your job

Software can make our lives easier, improve project outcomes and streamline our jobs but it should not replace us. Robot technology has the ability to automate tasks such as scheduling, sending reminders, and even reporting. But its limitation is the human touch, and this cannot be rivaled. Humans are social creatures and benefit greatly from connection, it’s what engages us, and an engaged employee is proven to perform better.

There are cases where a tech trumps the manager. For example, many employees would prefer a schedule reminder from an app rather than a manager breathing down their neck. But there are also areas where leaders have become overly reliant on software. For instance, various project apps we now use daily record time spent on tasks, outcomes and monitor success - all assigned to individuals. These recorded statistics are great, but they do not give the full picture of an employee’s performance, and so should not be solely relied upon when reflecting on a project’s successes and pitfalls. Your presence and connection during a project are paramount.

Being unapproachable

The final communication mistake managers commonly make is being unapproachable. “What? Nope, not me!” We hear you cry. But see yourself through your employee’s eyes for a moment.

The very nature of hierarchy is enough to make staff hesitant to consult you on matters perceived to be beneath you. Likewise, they may fear the retributions of admitting mistakes or struggles to someone in a position of power. The issue here of course is that teams who do not consult with their managers when issues arise, or even attempt to cover up problems, could end up causing further, bigger problems for a project.

There are ways to overcome this: Demonstrate that you are a team player by readily pitching in, and when an employee comes to you with a concern do not react negatively. Respond to employees in a supportive way, and promptly too - within a day ideally, so that your team does not perceive you as being too busy for them. A further resolution is having an open office and actively encouraging employees to communicate with you in person, particularly if an issue is time dependent.

If you are committing any of these sins, perhaps you’re not communicating as well as you may have thought. Resolve to be a better communicator by actioning our tips and you will soon find morale and employee engagement improve tenfold in your workplace.