Mastering Communications Up and Down
We often get inquiries from companies wanting to know what it takes to manage up and manage down in order to:
- Improve relationships, communications, efficiency, and productivity
- Raise the bar on reducing waste
- Increase the flow of ideas for better work flow
- Enhance customer interaction and product or service design and improvement.
Here are some of the strategies for managing up and down that we share:
- Change is in the Air. Teams should consider the following quote from Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we have today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” We need to be receptive to consider how we have done things in the past and when things need to change in order to stay current. Remember the Rolodex cards? Even the good old fashioned light pole is being changed out for the more modern version that does not pollute, uses solar electricity, notifies central headquarters through a wireless device when it needs service, and is quicker and less expensive to install.
- A Strategy with Stress. Each team member needs to deal with one key element of miscommunication… stress! If we are just reacting without a strategy or a tactic to execute then we are doing no better than running in circles. Stress or “fear” can cause us to shut down and reduce our capacity to listen. An excellent team exercise to understand how stress manifests within the work environment is to have the team members draw a picture of what each person feels they look like when under stress and write out some key attributes when staff members are under pressure and when they are feeling relaxed. Here are some questions to facilitate a discussion: How do your team members manage stress? Do your team members support each other when under pressure? What would be helpful when under stress?
- Be Like an Ostrich. The old tale that ostriches bury their head in the sand just isn’t true. What they are really doing is resting their heads on the ground which allows them to pick up on vibrations so if a predator is nearby they can protect themselves. Ostriches are actually excellent listeners! We all need to be like an ostrich and become outstanding listeners. One way to develop your listening skills is to practice active listening where you paraphrase what you think the other person is saying to you.
- Get to Know Who You are Dealing With. List out those you consider to be “A” players and identify three key traits. Then do the same for “B” and “C” players. Look for commonalities and develop a strategy for how to approach each person in order to communicate in a way that is most effective for everyone.
- Create a Communications Plan. Here is a team exercise to focus on communication – briefly answer the following questions:
- How do you listen… if at all?
b. What are three things that haven’t worked for you when communicating in the past?
c. What are three things that have worked?
d. What would you like your team members to do that they aren’t doing?
e. What are some baby steps to improve your listening and communication style?
Communication and empathy are crucial to developing a successful interpersonal relationship. The more you reach out with a plan in mind that is based on listening and openness, the more ideas will flow to you on how to best manage up and manage down.