How managers communicate

In an interview with the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales, Peter Ryan, the regional learning and development manager for the John Holland Group, Australia’s largest contracting organisation in heavy industry, offers some good advice. Whether you’re making a formal presentation or having a quick chat in the corridor, the challenge, he says, is for managers to get their message across and to be inspirational and informative at the same time.

‘When I entered into management, I found I needed to be able to consciously structure communication in a way that met my goals of team motivation and engagement. I also found that, as a manager, I had to be a “filter”, because I didn’t want to damage team morale or team engagement. Harsh business realities and “raw feedback” is seldom what people need to motivate them’, Ryan says.

Ryan also discovered that he was used to relating to his managers in a formal way but to peers in an informal way. ‘When you become a manager, almost all communications are formal and business-related, and should have a business objective attached to them. The whole ball game changes.’

Discussion questions

How carefully do you filter your communications so that your messages — even the tough ones — also motivate and engage, as well as inform, your team members? How carefully do you craft your communications to achieve your objectives? How might spending a few extra minutes thinking about and planning your upward, downward and lateral communications help you achieve your objectives, build better working relationships, improve your image and engage your team members?