New Manager’s Survival Guide: Communicating Clearly

by Ben Richardson
7th November 2019    5 Minutes
Megaphone for communcation

The key to being understood as a manager is good communication. One of your key responsibilities toward your team and company is to use clear communication to get tasks completed.

While you may still be getting to grips with your new promotion, things can get lost in translation, so what you do and say are really important as it can negatively impact everybody if you don’t relay information with complete clarity.

Why Is It Important To Be Understood?

As a new manager, you must ensure that you are understood and known as a strong communicator is critical. It will help to build your team’s confidence in you and will energise them. If you’re not confident of being able to communicate clearly to your team in your new manager position you should seek training to improve.

In order to get tasks completed to a high standard and run a great team of enthusiastic people, first you need to understand why it is important to be understood:

• People like to know where they stand and what is expected of them. A manager that can instruct clearly and communicate positively will have an impact on how happy people are at work, creating a positive culture. See our new manager’s guide to imposters syndrome for details of how to avoid this and ensure that you keep communicating positively.

• If you aren’t clear people will fill the faps in their understanding with assumptions. This will inevitably lead to the wrong things being done sometimes and so either tasks not being completed correctly or needing to be reworked.

• You can see the bigger picture and understand how tasks will impact it. If you communicate this clearly to the team they will understand why they are being asked to complete tasks.

Miscommunication and Misinterpretation

It is easy to fall into the mindset that something you’ve said has been misinterpreted as opposed to miscommunicated.

Great managers know that the responsibility for ensuring that they are clearly understood sits with them in 99% of cases. New managers need to understand that the onus is on them to communicate clearly AND ensure that they have been properly understood.

When a message needs to be conveyed to employees, the content and the goal needs to be crystal clear to avoid misinterpretation. In emails, written communication, instant message and tools like Slack, the human element is removed so your tone is interpreted through your use of language and punctuation.

• Use professional language, clear text and don’t leave things open to interpretation by using non-standard language (e.g. additional exclamation marks or continued use of upper-case words) where what you mean may not be clear to the reader.

• Make sure that you are clear about the end goal and how it needs to be achieved. A really good simple framework to use when you take up a new management role is to make sure to cover:
– What the task is
– Who needs to complete it
– When it needs to be completed by
– Why it needs to be completed
– Where it needs to be completed (if this is relevant)
If your employees ask for clarification make a note of what they ask. You clearly weren’t 100% clear the first time so this is useful feedback to reflect on and try to learn from.

• Avoid the use of company jargon that everyone isn’t completely familiar with. Acronyms are only great if everyone knows what they mean.

• Use the subject line. Be clear so that people know what the email is about. It will make it easier for people to search and refer back to specific headings. Avoid “Quick question” or “Re. Conversation yesterday”

Face to Face Communication

To be fully understood as a new manager, you’ll need to look at the way you communicate face to face with your employees both verbally and visually.

We communicate differently in emails as we can edit them before we send them. In on the spot conversations if we say the wrong thing it will have a lasting effect.

To make sure you are being understood, here are some tips to put into practice when talking to your team:

• Avoid The Curse Of Knowledge:

This phenomenon occurs when someone assumes the person they are talking to has the same understanding as them. New managers have access to all sorts of information that they didn’t have previously and it is easy to forget this. Make sure that your team are starting from the same base of knowledge as you.

• Practice Listening:

By listening carefully to your team you will learn what they understand already and whether they are clear on what you are asking them to so.

• Be Aware Of Your Tone:

The majority of communication when face to face with someone is non-verbal. Take care with your tone. For example, simple inflections in your voice differentiate questions from statements.

• Visual Aids:

Don’t be afraid to use them. To clarify your point, sometimes words are not enough, and a visual aid or prop will help people to understand. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Use concise presentations or handouts that can be taken away for employees to refer back to. If your new management position comes with an office request a whiteboard so that you can easily draw diagrams.

• Use Repetition Wisely:

To convey a message or to cement an idea, repeating the key points will help employees understand you and the expectations of them.

• Use Examples:

Storytelling is a great way to communicate ideas to your team. By telling a story or giving an example, your message will be understood more clearly.

• Invite Questions:

Any conversations with employees will benefit from having a question and answer section. Their questions will tell you if they have understood what you have said. See our new line manager’s guide to one-to-one meetings.

• Always Summarise:

By re-visiting the main points of your conversation, you can emphasise the message and ensure all parties are aware of what to do next.

• Reinforce Messages:

Use email to summarise or reinforce your meeting if it was lengthy or important. Mention questions that were raised and what solutions you discussed so everybody involved fully understands. See our new managers guide to performance reviews for more details.

Learning to communicate clearly and concisely isn’t easy and takes years of practice. It is one of the key skills of line management so it is worth investing time and energy to improve your communication.