The essence of good management is saying the right things to the right people at the right time in order to get the best results possible. I am a much better manager when I consciously think about my communication purpose prior to acting. Decades ago, someone told me about the four basic purposes of communicating. I try to keep these four options in mind when trying to decide who I should talk to next, with what communication purpose in mind, as I search for ways to improve the performance of my organization. Here are the four basic communications purposes and their role in management.
To Entertain: The first communications purpose is to build trust and rapport with new associates and to then maintain it. Rapport is built by finding common interests and feelings, so that it is possible to laughtogether over the same story and have interests that you enjoy doing together or talking about.
Trust is about believing that your associate always acts in your best interest, helping you findsuccess and happiness in life, rather than a win-lose agenda. When a manager begins working with a new employee, boss or colleague, it can take time develop the trust and rapport needed to have a productive relationship.
If trust and rapport are not present, it is almost impossible to be very effective in any higher level communication purpose because the person is too uncomfortable to hear much of what you say, or too distrusting to believe much of what they do hear. While it may take many hours of effort focused on building trust and rapport, once it is established, it only takes a minimal amount of effort to maintain it (unless someone violates the trust).
To Inform: A key role of a manager is to give an employee the information that they need to grow by increasing the value of their efforts to the organization. To do this, a manager should interview their employees to find out exactly how they did their job, and why they did it that way. Then interview the employee’s clients and coworkers, and their managers to determine which of those behaviors are highly valued and which are not, plus any additional things your employee could do to create even more value.
As a part of each performance review, interview employees to find out what kind of work each employee would like to have an opportunity to do, and what kinds of work they no longer enjoy doing. Quite often, what has become a routine task to one person is an interesting growth opportunity for another.
Collecting a wealth of information about what is of value to the employee, their clients and the organization equips the manager to advise employees on what they could stop doing because it no longer adds much value, and what they could start doing because it adds value. Managers should be redesigning each employee’s job at a pace that allows them to grow at a challenging and rewarding rate.
Being a “proactive mentor” that knows how their employees do their job, and how others value those efforts, makes each employee feel like they and their efforts are very important to their manager. Taking the additional step of proactively mentoring growth by showing employees how they can become even more valued enables the manager to build the employee trust and respect that managers must have in order to be highly effective.
To Convince: As managers acquire anecdotal evidence about what kinds of employee work behaviors are valued and not valued by clients, coworkers and other managers, a manager can conceptualize these facts into higher level statements that define their managerial values. If a manager is able to convince employees that their published value statements are valid, then employees can confidently use these statements as a guide to coming up with their own ideas of how to add value, further accelerating their own and their organization’s growth.
A manager’s mission, goals, strategies and operating principles are all values statements. To be valid, every activity or idea that is supported by a manager must be consistent with all of their value statements. Any decision not to support an activity or idea must be explained by at least one of the value statements. Any statement that does not play a significant role in explaining the decisions that a manager makes should be deleted from the values statements because it lacks operational efficacy.
Convincing an organization to buy into a set of value statements is an act of leadership. It takes some courage to publish tentative value statements, to be open to the employee feedback on how those statements might not explain some management decisions, and to keep revising until a credible consensus is built. The manager must then reinforce the consensus by using the value statements to explain each of their decisions to employees.
Managers that do this are likely to be perceived as highly principled and fair because they treat everyone’s efforts the same according to their published principles. Defining the hierarchy of values that drives a manager’s decisions is a great way of creating the three most crucial managerial assets of trust, respect and fairness.
To Persuade: Having an easy rapport with employees, being trusted, mentoring each employee’s growth, and developing value statements to help employees come up with their own ideas for improvement may not lead to employee action to improve. Some employees may still be hesitant to change, and need to be persuaded. Leadership is about convincing people of the merit of certain values. Management is about persuading people to act on those shared values.
One process of persuading an employee to take a more appropriate action is the process of delegation. It consists of advising the employee of specifically what action you would like to see them start or stop doing, why it is important for the organization and the employee to do that, and who they should work with to get the help they need to do what you are asking. Then ask the employee to tell you what they plan to do about your request in the coming week.
You might need to negotiate until you feel the employee is planning to give this item the right kind of attention. Then summarize the work plan that the employee agreed to, and state your intention to review their progress in your next weekly meeting. In the next meeting, recognize and value any progress the employee has made, and then negotiate the next week’s plan. Keep iterating until you are confident that the employee has adopted the desired change.