Victor is an executive coach and author of The Type B Manager. He has more than 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience, roughly half in front-line management and half in executive roles. He contributes regularly to Forbes and Psychology Today, and his work has appeared in Harvard Business Review.
Communication is the oil that keeps the engine of your organization running smoothly, and it all starts with management.
"I never met a good manager who wasn’t also a good communicator.” Today, more than two decades later, I still remember the conversation well.
I was discussing “what makes an effective manager” with one of our company’s HR executives.
Her point was that, after many years of observing managers in action, and analyzing the attributes of our organization’s strong managers and weak ones, she’d come to feel she could learn a lot by just walking around the operations and noting how much individual managers were – or were not – taking time to talk with their employees.
The best managers seemed to interact regularly, she noted, with natural, frequent conversations. The less effective managers had fewer of these routine interactions. They didn’t seem to want much contact with their employees; she felt there was too much silence. It was as if these managers – the not-so-successful ones – didn’t seem comfortable with their employees, and she believed this discomfort didn’t bode well for positive long-term management performance.
The value of everyday good communication
Her observation was an intuitive way of making an important fundamental point: When it comes to effective management, you can’t overestimate the value of basic everyday good communication.
Simply put, I never met a good manager who wasn’t also a good communicator.
This soft conclusion is supported by hard data from Gallup, as described in Harvard Business Review – making the point that regular daily managerial communication is a vital element in employee engagement.
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I like to call communication a lubricant in the engine of management. You don’t think much about it and it’s easy to take for granted – but in its absence the machinery of management starts grinding. When you’d rather keep things running smoothly.
Think about it: So much of routine manager – employee relations involve discussion… give and take… analysis… exchanges of thoughts and ideas… bargaining and negotiating. All of which require communication.
When this natural back-and-forth is absent – when a person just doesn’t like or feel comfortable with normal conversational give and take, all kinds of management dysfunction can set in. Employees generally want feedback and reassurance; they want to know they’re doing a good job. Silence breeds uncertainty, lack of clarity, and probably lack of recognition too.
Chronic communication issues not only affect relationships with employees, but also with peers - other managers, other department heads and division heads – with results rarely conducive to a smooth-running organization.
Everyday communication skills are easy to overlook – which is why I think my old HR friend was on to something. It’s easy for HR execs and hiring managers to get caught up in trying to find technical proficiency, say, or authority and executive presence. Sure, you need those attributes, but if you neglect the fundamental ability to interact constructively and productively on a regular basis, it’s a reasonable bet you’ll run into managerial problems before much time passes.
Engine oil isn’t something we tend to think a whole lot about. It’s out of sight and mind, doing its quiet lubricating work keeping complex parts moving smoothly without undue friction.
But without it, an engine won’t get far.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Predictive Index