My Recipe for Effective Communication

This week, in our continuing discussion of leadership, Diane Janovsky, Strategic Partner is cooking up some great advice about how managers and leaders can be great communicators. We think there are some tasty tidbits in this article so enjoy this week’s Power Idea!

For managers of people, one of the most important skills to possess is being an effective communicator. The very nature of the job is to influence people and outcomes, and the way we humans do that is by communicating.

Unfortunately, not all managers communicate equally well, and I’m sure each of us can easily recall bosses who left us feeling frustrated, stressed and disrespected. For me personally, those negative role models – the ones who hoarded information, who were unavailable or who didn’t listen – were my strongest motivation to actively and consciously cultivate my communication skills as I moved into management.

I believe that one of the ways to develop “communication muscle” is to have an intentional philosophy and plan. Not every manager’s approach will be the same, but as food for thought, below I have listed the main ingredients in my own personal “recipe” to be an effective communicator.

One of my biggest “pet peeves” has always been managers who hoard information under the old paradigm of “knowledge is power”. The reality is that empowered teams are critical to success in today’s very complex and dynamic business environment, so sharing information openly, consistently and in a timely manner is first on my list.

And with the number of technology options available now, there should be no excuses because sharing is easy.

When we think of good communicators, we often think of people who talk a lot and express themselves well. However, communication is a two-part process of sending and receiving. Experts tell us that we should listen about twice as much as we talk.

For me, active listening means a number of things:

  • Striving to be more self-aware about how much my lips are moving when I am interacting with others versus being silent to allow them space to respond. (This continues to be a work in progress, especially when I am passionate about something!). Sensitivity to non-verbal cues is helpful here.
  • Being present in the moment to genuinely connect. This means putting away my phone, turning away from the computer screen and making eye contact. If I am distracted by a deadline or other pressing issue, then I ask to reschedule the discussion.
  • Soliciting questions and inputs during meetings or in advance of major decisions, and making sure that all opinions are heard, including from the “quiet people”.
  • Confirming understanding of sent and received messages by re-stating or summarizing the points that were made, and clarifying actions and next steps.

In the rush of day to day tactical work, making time for strategic communication can be challenging. To make sure it happens, I develop my own communication plan for various audiences and purposes. These include:

  • Regular staff, team and department or full organization meetings for issues of general impact. Agendas are a must.
  • Regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports (and my own boss) for individual focus and more detailed items.
  • Skip level meetings (manager’s manager meets with employees) where appropriate.
  • Strive for and demonstrate an “open door” policy as much as possible (within reasonable boundaries and guidelines).

We all want to feel that we are valued and respected as individuals. Establishing a rapport before jumping right into business lays the groundwork for more effective interaction. I try to remember to ask about how people are doing, and to be familiar enough with team members’ lives and aspirations to demonstrate that I authentically care about them (they will detect if you are not authentic, by the way).

And a sense of humor, within the bounds of good taste, is always helpful.

This “recipe” for communication effectiveness works well for me. I don’t always execute it perfectly, but it gives me a template to follow so that I have a reasonable confidence level in the outcome.

What are the ingredients in YOUR recipe for communication effectiveness? Do you even have a recipe? Are you happy with your results? Email us at to share your thoughts or to learn more about how to develop communication skills in your organization.