Saturday, 15 August 2009

Why senior managers should communicate directly with the team

Communication is one of the key skills for managers. Every manager who disagrees with this comment should have a long, hard look in the mirror and think again.

I always rated communication very highly and disliked those kind of senior managers who like to play Chinese Whispers in there attempt to follow protocol and only speak to their direct reports. Of course this is fine, after all this person is in charge of their department and therefore need to be aware of the workload and demands to the team. However, what's the point in telling a manager that a certain piece of information is required, when you know exactly that this will be passed on to a specific member of team. Wouldn't it be more sensible to talk directly to the person with direct responsibility for the topic in question?

The reason I am currently considering this issue is easy - it's based on recent experience. In the last few weeks:

- Our Marketing Director mentioned to a colleague who is slightly senior than me that he wants me to provide a full report on a specific topic. This colleague forgot to mention it to me - and I got a telling off a couple of weeks later directly from our Director that 'not delivering without even giving a reason' just wasn't good enough.

- Our Head of Marketing told our senior marketing manager that the team is to prepared a tactical plan of marketing activities for 2010 by the end of the week. The manager told us, but had misunderstood the brief - it wasn't an area where he usually got involved and therefore didn't ask the right questions - and we prepared only half the work. When we submitted the work on Friday a big panic set in and we had to work until late at night to complete the remaining work.

In both of above examples it would have been so much better if the brief or the request would have given directly to the employees who were expected to do the work. It would have saved a lot of stress and panic and it would have filled us - the team - with much more confidence in the ability of our senior management to work efficiently.

As it was we felt left out of the loop and badly done to. That senior management apologised to us on both occasions didn't really make up as it was still us who suffered the consequences.

My advice to senior managers would always be to speak to the direct report (may it be the senior manager, manager or team leader) if it is not clear who is expected to do the work. But if the message is 'Can you ask Mrs. X to do Y' - advise your direct report that you will request this (either beforehand or copy them in on the email), but speak directly to the person. It will make the staff feel more respected and important, limits the risk of misunderstandings and miscommunication and will get you the expected results much quicker!

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