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Are You Communicating to Prevent Problems?

Everyone with leadership responsibilities wants and needs a smooth functioning and productive team. Despite this, outcomes vary. Heavy demands on the leader's time and energy may result in too little effort devoted to communicating with team members. Yet, emphasizing respectful communication every day actually requires less time, effort, and cost than repairing damage caused by poor communication.

People who don't feel included, important, and valued become less productive. When trust levels go down, so does productivity. When employees feel they are not respected (or do not respect their leaders), the potential for conflict increases.

Communicating openly, clearly, and respectfully reduces the potential for unnecessary problems. At the first indication of conflict, addressing the problem makes the leader stronger in the team's eyes. Avoiding conflict weakens your position of leadership.

Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I emphasize face-to-face communication? If you say you have an "open door" policy, keep your door open — at least figuratively — most of the time. On the occasion when a team member has a concern and you can't be available immediately, always stop what you're doing long enough to set a definite time for a get together.

2. Do I ask myself each time I give an instruction if the message is clear?

3. Am I truly listening to what team members say? Ask follow-up questions as evidence that you care about what they have to say (e.g., ask questions to show interest, to clarify points, to show your understanding, or to improve your understanding).

4. Do I show respect for all direct reports, peers, clients and customers? You are a role model — how you treat an others in the workplace is remembered more than the words you say.

5. Have I asked members of my team recently how I can help them do a better job or how they can help me do a better job?

6. Do I ask team members for help when I need it? Asking for help does not diminish your stature. In fact, it models teamwork.

7. Am I defensive when someone disagrees with me?

8. Am I taking every opportunity to show appreciation and recognition? Notice the details and say thanks for small contributions along the way as well as for work well done when the project is complete. Give public as well as private recognition to small and large contributions.
The responsibility for communication in the workplace is shared. Team members have responsibilities, too. However, leaders set the tone. Strong leaders create a trusting environment, show respect, and address concerns before they become problems.

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