6 Communication failures bosses make

Being the boss isn’t an easy job—it’s all about time management, understanding people, and leading the organization into the future. Bosses are our big-picture thinkers. Rather than being stuck in the daily details, they delegate and make sure important tasks are assigned and completed. But to execute that role, communication is essential. Unfortunately, many bosses fall down when it comes to communication, which gives rise to conflict, unhappy employees, and missed opportunities.

communication fails

The first step to communication recovery is admitting there’s a problem. Say it with me. “Hello, I’m ________, and I need to improve my communication skills.” Whew. That feels better. Now that we can acknowledge room for improvement, we can walk through some of the common ways communication failures happen.

1. Failure to provide direction.

For new projects, roles, and assignments, there’s an amount of uncertainty that accompanies this new territory. When bosses fail to give proper direction, the result can be disastrous: missed deadlines, sloppy work, and a general sense of unease within the workplace.

The fix: Make time to sit down and discuss expectations, give direction, and provide a general outline of what you need and anticipate at the beginning of a new project.

2. Failure to give feedback.

At the start of a project, your team needs direction—and along the way, they need feedback. Without feedback, there’s no way for your team to know if they’re on the right track or if they’re fulfilling their role within the business in general.

The fix: It’s a delicate balance between being a micro-manager and being hands-off, but giving feedback regularly is a good thing. It makes sure everything is on track. And don’t fear the causal employee evaluation—let it be an opportunity to chat about the past and the future.

3. Failure to make employees feel their opinions are valued.

In a team situation, all of the players need to know they’re an important part of the machine for things to run smoothly. When employees start feeling like their input doesn’t matter, it becomes an “Us vs. Them” situation in which the boss becomes the enemy. Bad news.

The fix: Have regular group discussions and let team members contribute their opinions and ideas. Staff meetings should be more than one-sided. Not all ideas and opinions have to be acted on, but allowing some two-way communication is an easy way to make your team feel empowered. Plus, multiple brains are always better than one.

4. Failure to share information.

Information that’s withheld can lead to duplication, second-guessing, and mistrust. Take this scenario: One employee spends a late night at the office finishing a report, only to find that the report was completed by another staff member several days ago. Not only is one party surprised, but now they’re pissed, too.

The fix: Start sharing! Having a weekly stand-up meeting with your team will help clear up these issues. We know that there are times when not everyone needs to know everything—but sharing what you can (when you can) will save many a headache and awkward break room surprises.

5. Failure to be accessible.

We get it—you’re the boss, and that means you need to be a thousand places at once. But you can still be accessible and respond in a timely nature to your team’s questions and concerns. When the boss can’t be reached, communications break down and decisions are made prematurely (or not at all) — letting things fall through the cracks.

The fix: Try to guarantee a 48-hour window response time. By having a concrete timetable (if not 48 hours, at least put a solid time window on it) you’re letting people know when an answer can be expected—and not to proceed until then. This means more work and sticky notes on your part, but can result in a much better handle on decisions large and small.

6. Failure to encourage group collaboration.

So often we become wrapped up in our own worlds, tasks, and job descriptions. A communication failure on behalf of the boss is when people stop talking to each other and creativity dies down. You’re the facilitator—get people talking not just to you, but each other!

The fix: Cheesy as it sounds, there’s nothing wrong with a good brainstorming session. Have a team come together to tackle a problem that no one person can handle on their own. Encourage idea-bouncing. Do something after-hours together. There are lots of options.

Bosses: if you’ve fallen victim to any of these communication failures, don’t worry—it happens to all of us! Use these tips and find a way to turn things around. Communication is the glue to your everyday operations, so the better everyone is communicating, the stronger your business will be.

Your turn: What strategies do you use to help fix communication failures?



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Photo credit: pierret_christian

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is no stranger to small business. She's the Founder of Lumen -- a business that offers copywriting, social media services, and graphic design. When she's not contributing to the EnMast blog, you'll find her running or at the movies (because the running helps manage the movie snack consumption.) Connect with Kaleigh on Twitter, LinkedIn, or read her blog.

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